Contributed by Associate Attorney, Alicia Canfield.
With tailgating season right around the corner, it is important to know the law surrounding driving while intoxicated. Believe it or not, you could be charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) regardless of whether you are driving or not. While driving is the most common component of a DWI, an officer only has to show that you operated a motor vehicle while intoxicated. For example, if you are sitting inside your vehicle at the tailgate while it is running and you are intoxicated, an officer can infer that you intended to drive or operate the motor vehicle and charge you with DWI.
Unlike other crimes, once charged with a DWI, you have two cases to defend: the criminal case and the administrative Department of Revenue (“DOR”) case.
In Arkansas, a first-offense DWI is punishable in the criminal case by up to one year in jail, plus fines and court costs. Separately, while fighting your criminal case, you have to fight to avoid your license being suspended by the DOR. Once charged with a DWI, the DOR will hold a hearing to independently determine if they believe you were driving while intoxicated. If the DOR determines that you were driving while intoxicated, on a first offense, your license is suspended for six months beginning one month after the date of arrest.
In Missouri, a first-offense DWI is punishable in the criminal case by up to six (6) months in jail, plus fines and court costs. Again, separately, the DOR will begin their case to determine if your license should be suspended for a DWI. In Missouri, if the DOR determines that you were driving while intoxicated, on a first offense, your license is suspended for ninety (90) days.
In Arkansas, you have seven (7) days to request a hearing on your driver’s license suspension after the date you are charged with a DWI. In Missouri, you have fifteen (15) days to request an administrative hearing from the charged date. It is important to complete the paperwork (or have an attorney do so) provided to you during the DWI stop, because a failure to request a hearing within the permitted time can result in an automatic license suspension with no option to appeal.
Whether you are driving home after the tailgate or sitting in your vehicle to escape the southern humidity during the game after a few drinks, there could be serious consequences. If you are planning on having a few drinks away from home, make plans for a safe ride home.
If you are facing a DWI charge, Miller | Butler has a team dedicated to DWI defense ready to speak with you. Give us a call at 479-621-0006.