Man drives a car with a bottle of beer

Can a DWI Be Reduced in Missouri?

Guilfoil Law Group June 27, 2024

If you’ve been charged with a DWI in Missouri, you may be feeling anxious about the potential penalties and wondering what you can do to help your case. The state has stringent laws aimed at curbing intoxicated driving, which means serious consequences for those charged. One common question many drivers in Kansas City and throughout Missouri have is whether a DWI charge can be reduced.  

At Guilfoil Law Group, I have dedicated my career to helping individuals fight DWI charges in Kansas City, and throughout Clay County, Platte County, and Jackson County, Missouri. As an experienced DWI lawyer, I understand the nuances of Missouri's DWI laws and the various strategies that can be employed to reduce or even dismiss charges. My commitment is to provide my clients with the best possible defense, making sure they have the support and guidance they need throughout the legal process.  

In this article, I will explore Missouri’s DWI laws and provide actionable advice on how you might pursue a reduction of your DWI charges. 

Understanding DWI in Missouri

Missouri's DWI laws are strict and cover both alcohol and drug impairments. A driver can be charged with a DWI if they have a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or more, or if they are impaired by drugs. Additionally, drivers under the age of 21 are subject to a stricter BAC limit of 0.02%. The law also applies to individuals impaired by drugs, whether prescription or illicit. 

DWI Penalties in Missouri

DWI penalties can be severe, including license suspension, fines, and potential imprisonment: 

  • First Offense (Class B Misdemeanor): Up to 6 months in jail and fines up to $500. 

  • Second Offense (Class A Misdemeanor): Up to 1 year in jail and fines up to $1,000. 

  • Third Offense (Class D Felony): Up to 5 years in prison and fines up to $5,000. 

  • Fourth Offense (Class C Felony): Up to 7 years in prison and fines up to $5,000. 

  • Fifth Offense (Class B Felony): Between 5 to 15 years in prison. 

If charged with a DWI, you'll face both administrative and criminal proceedings. The administrative process involves the suspension or revocation of your driver's license, while the criminal process addresses the penalties mentioned above. 

Actual Physical Control 

In Missouri, you don't need to be driving to be charged with a DWI. If you are found to be in "actual physical control" of a vehicle while impaired, you could still face charges. This includes situations like being asleep in a car with the engine running. 

Can a DWI Be Reduced in Missouri? 

Reducing a DWI charge in Missouri depends on several factors, including the specifics of your case, your criminal history, and the effectiveness of your legal representation. In most cases, if your BAC was just over the legal limit, or if there were procedural issues during your arrest, there could be grounds for reduction. 

The Wet Reckless Plea  

One of the most common reductions from DWI in Missouri is to reckless driving involving alcohol (often referred to as "wet reckless"). This plea can be advantageous as it typically results in lesser penalties compared to a full DWI conviction. The wet reckless plea may involve reduced fines, shorter probation periods, and less severe impacts on one's driving record and insurance rates. While not always granted, it is often pursued by defense attorneys as a strategic move to mitigate the consequences of a DWI charge. 

Benefits and Drawbacks of a Reduced Charge 

The benefits of a reduced charge might include: 

  • Reduced penalties, such as lower fines and shorter license suspensions 

  • Avoidance of a DWI mark on the driving record 

  • Potential for lesser long-term impacts on employment and insurance rates 

Some potential drawbacks of reducing your DWI charge could include: 

  • Admission of guilt (in cases of plea bargaining) 

  • Some penalties still apply, such as fines and possible mandatory programs 

  • Public record of a lesser but still negative infraction 

The Process of Reducing a DWI Charge 

The first step in seeking a reduction is to consult with an experienced DWI attorney. At Guilfoil Law Group, I am on the cutting edge when it comes to DUI/DWI matters, and I have key relationships and negotiation experience from years of practicing within the Missouri legal system that can help support your case. 

Some of the potential strategies for getting a DWI charge reduced include:  

  1. Challenging the stop: Questioning the legality of the traffic stop that led to your arrest 

  1. Sobriety test accuracy: Disputing the accuracy of sobriety tests conducted during your arrest 

  1. BAC testing: Contesting the reliability of breathalyzer or blood test results 

  1. Legal representation: Having a skilled attorney to negotiate with prosecutors for a lesser charge 

Factors Influencing Charge Reduction 

Several factors can influence the likelihood of a DWI charge being reduced, such as: 

  • Criminal history: Defendants with no prior criminal record are more likely to receive leniency. 

  • BAC level: Lower BAC levels at the time of arrest may favor charge reduction. 

  • Behavior during arrest: Cooperative behavior can positively impact negotiations. 

  • Legal representation: Effective legal counsel is crucial in negotiating plea bargains and presenting mitigating circumstances. 

I have a proven track record of helping clients reduce DWI charges. By presenting compelling arguments and highlighting any procedural flaws in your arrest, we can potentially negotiate a plea to a lesser charge like reckless driving. 

Immediate Steps to Take Following a DWI Charge 

When faced with a DWI charge, remember the following steps to help mitigate the negative consequences:  

  1. Stay calm and cooperative: Being polite and cooperative during your arrest can work in your favor later. 

  1. Document everything: Write down everything you remember about your arrest as soon as possible. 

  1. Contact a lawyer: Reach out to a knowledgeable DWI attorney immediately. 

Long-Term Strategies 

  1. Complete a SATOP program: The Substance Abuse Traffic Offender Program (SATOP) is often required but can also show a judge your commitment to rehabilitation. 

  1. Consider Ignition Interlock: Installing an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) can sometimes mitigate penalties and show proactive steps toward responsible behavior. 

  1. Stay informed: Continually educate yourself on your rights and the legal processes involved in DWI cases in Missouri. 

Most of all, engaging experienced legal counsel is essential for anyone facing DWI charges. A knowledgeable attorney can evaluate the specifics of the case, identify viable defenses, negotiate plea deals effectively, and advocate for the defendant’s rights throughout the legal process. Every DWI case is unique, so seek personalized advice from a legal professional who can develop a tailored defense strategy to achieve the best outcome. 

Reach Out for Legal Advice on Your DWI Case

Facing a DWI charge in Missouri is undoubtedly stressful, but understanding your legal options for charge reduction can provide some relief. By knowing the laws, the penalties, and the avenues for reducing charges, you can handle this challenging situation with clarity and confidence. 

With over twenty years of experience defending individuals charged with DWI, at Guilfoil Law Group, I am here to help you achieve the best possible outcome. If you or someone you know is facing a DWI charge in Kansas City, Clay County, Platte County, or Jackson County, Missouri, don’t hesitate to reach out for a consultation.