A driver holding alcoholic bottle while driving

This Is My First DWI. What Should I Expect?

Guilfoil Law Group Aug. 30, 2023

There are few things as stressful as seeing the red and blue lights of a cop car behind you while driving and realizing they’re pulling you over. This can happen for several reasons, but when you’re being pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI), you’ll need to take it very seriously and remain in compliance not only with the arresting officer but with the legal processes you’ll have to go through after the DUI is issued. And, if this has never happened to you or someone you know, you may not fully understand what you should expect.  

If this is your first DUI offense and you’d like to meet with a criminal defense lawyer to better understand how to handle it, call me at Guilfoil Law Group. I’m located in Kansas City, Missouri, where I’m able to help those in Clay County, Platte County, Jackson County, or anywhere in Missouri. 

DUI Charges in Missouri

Although many people use the term “driving under the influence” when talking about drunk driving charges, Missouri actually uses the term driving while intoxicated (DWI). However, the two terms mean the same thing and are often used interchangeably.  

You can get a DWI in Missouri both for driving while intoxicated and being in “actual physical control” of the vehicle. In the latter scenario, it’s legally possible to get a DWI even if you’re not driving. For example, if you pull over on the side of the road to rest after realizing you’ve had too much to drink but remained in the driver’s seat with the keys in the ignition, you can be ticketed. The assumption here is that even if you’re not currently operating the car, you could easily be in “actual physical control.”

Like all states in the country, Missouri measures your level of impairment by testing your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). For most drivers, if they have a BAC of over 0.08%, they are considered legally impaired and can be issued a DWI. For commercial truck drivers, the limit is reduced to 0.04%, and for drivers under the age of 21, it’s further reduced to just 0.02%.

The device used to test your BAC is called a breathalyzer, commonly used across the country by law enforcement. Per Missouri law, all drivers implicitly agree to submit to this testing when they operate a vehicle on the state’s roadways. If you refuse this test, you will face an automatic license suspension of one year and an additional six months of having an ignition interlock device (IID) installed in your car—regardless of the outcome of your DUI charges. 

The Process You’ll Go Through

The general process of getting a DWI will be the same for most people: 

  1. After you are pulled over, the officer will typically ask you questions about how much you’ve been drinking or where you were and may ask you to submit to a breathalyzer test. 

  1. Once they determine they have enough evidence to support a DWI, they will arrest you, impound your car, and take away your driver’s license. 

  1. You will then be transported to the police station or the local jail where you may or may not be asked to take another test. Here, you will receive your official citation, and it’s common to have to remain in custody until you are sober. 

  1. You will then need to be bailed out, or you may be released on your own recognizance. 

  1. After this, a hearing date will be set. At your arraignment, there will be a formal presentation of your charges and you’ll be required to enter your plea.  

  1. The next steps depend on your plea. If you plead not guilty, then you will have a trial date set. If you plead guilty, a judge may issue your punishment right away. 

Possible Penalties for First Offense

The DUI penalties you’ll face may vary depending on the circumstances of your situation, but in general, they are less severe for first-time offenders than they are for those who have DWI convictions in their past. Penalties can include jail time, fines, community service, driver’s license suspension, and installing an IID in your car.  

Since one big punishment is having your license suspended for DUI charges, in some cases, you may be able to apply for a hardship license to use temporarily. Note, however, that these are not guaranteed, and they can only be used in restricted ways, such as driving to and from work.  

Fight for Your Rights

If you live in or around the Kansas City, Missouri, area and have recently been arrested for your first DUI, you need to get legal help immediately. Here at Guilfoil Law Group, I can offer you personalized and skilled legal assistance for any DUI issues. Reach out to me today to learn more.