UNDERSTAND HOW DRIVERS GIVE UP THEIR RIGHTS, AND GIVE THE POLICE THE EVIDENCE THEY NEED TO MAKE AN ARREST AND PROSECUTE DRIVERS!
Often, persons charged with violation of Missouri DWI law are unfamiliar with the process of how Missouri DWI enforcement officers detect and arrest persons suspected of violating Missouri DWI law. The information contained on this page will give an overview of the process, but is not intended to describe every situation or circumstance that Missouri DWI enforcement officers and Missouri drivers will encounter in the real world of Missouri DWI law.
First, Missouri DWI enforcement officers begin by looking for driving clues. These clues can be any driving violation such as: wide-radius turns, failure to use turn signals, weaving outside the lane of travel, failing to stop at a stop sign or signal, or any other violation of the motor vehicle traffic laws of Missouri. But, a driver need not violate a State of Missouri traffic law in order for the Missouri DWI enforcement officer to have reasonable suspicion to stop the driver for a Missouri DWI investigation. Any unusual driving may give the Missouri DWI enforcement officer reasonable suspicion to stop a driver for violation of Missouri DWI law.
On the same hand, just because a Missouri driver fails to obey one or more of these Missouri traffic laws does not, of course, mean that the driver is in violation of Missouri DWI law. Missouri DWI enforcement officers are trained to look for three signs of intoxication as a basis for their Missouri DWI car stops. For instance, weaving outside the lane of travel three times could indicate potential intoxication whereas weaving once may just indicate the driver was preoccupied with the radio, or other in-car distraction.
Missouri courts have held that once a Missouri DWI enforcement officer observes a violation of Missouri law or unusual vehicle operation, the DWI enforcement officer has justifiable grounds to stop the car. This is called “reasonable suspicion”. Reasonable suspicion means “would a reasonable officer, knowing what the officer on the scene knows, have believed that it was reasonable to believe a crime either had been, or was being committed?” If the answer is yes, then the officer can stop the car for further investigation, including violation of Missouri DWI law.
Reasonable suspicion is not enough to arrest a person, though. Once the Missouri DWI enforcement officer has stopped the car, he must have “probable cause” to make an arrest, including an arrest for violation Missouri DWI law. Some Missouri DWI enforcement officers have defined “probable cause” as “I think a crime has been committed, and you are the one who could have done it.” This definition, however, is not accurate. Missouri courts define probable cause as a “knowledge of facts and circumstances sufficient for a prudent person to believe a suspect is committing or has committed an offense.” State v. Tokar, 918 S.W.2d 753 (Mo.banc 1996), cert. denied 519 U.S. 933. This standard is based off the totality of the circumstances. That is, the Missouri courts will look at all of the information and determine if a prudent person would believe what the Missouri DWI enforcement officer testified he believed at the time he made the arrest.
In order to develop legally sufficient probable cause for an arrest for violation of Missouri DWI law, Missouri DWI enforcement officers use a variety of factors to indicate intoxication.
SUBTLE ROADSIDE QUESTIONING
The best of Missouri's DWI enforcement officers are trained to question drivers in such a manner as to not alert them that the Missouri DWI enforcement officer is actually conducting an investigation. A typical exchange during a car stop for Missouri DWI may be as follows:
MISSOURI DWI ENFORCEMENT OFFICER: “Good evening sir, I’m officer Jones with the Kansas City police department. The reason I stopped you tonight is that I noticed you kinda drifted over the centerline back there away. Any reason in particular you did that?”
DWI DRIVER: “I’m sorry about that. I dropped my (cigarette, CD, whatever) on the floor and I was reaching down to get it.
MISSOURI DWI ENFORCEMENT OFFICER: “That’s fine. That stuff happens. Can I see your driver’s license and proof of insurance, please?”
DWI DRIVER: “Sure. Am I going to get a ticket?”
MISSOURI DWI ENFORCEMENT OFFICER: “Probably not. I just have to fill out some of this paperwork for my supervisors. We are required to write down the name and some information about everyone we stop.”
The Kansas City DWI driver then gives over the license and proof of insurance
MISSOURI DWI ENFORCEMENT OFFICER: “Have you had anything to drink tonight?”
DWI DRIVER: “I had a couple of drinks at dinner with my friends.”
MISSOURI DWI ENFORCEMENT OFFICER: “Okay. That’s understandable. How long ago was that?”
DWI DRIVER: “We just finished about a half an hour ago.”
MISSOURI DWI ENFORCEMENT OFFICER: “Okay. Why don’t you step on out here with me for a minute so I’m not standing in the lane of traffic here.”
The Kansas City DWI driver steps out and walks around the rear of the car with the
MISSOURI DWI ENFORCEMENT OFFICER: “I notice the odor of alcoholic beverages. I have a couple of tests I want you to perform.”
The Missouri DWI Enforcement officer then gives the instructions for, and performs various Missouri DWI field sobriety tests. By this time, he has a good idea whether he is going to arrest the driver or not for violation of Missouri DWI law.
If the Missouri DWI enforcement officer arrests the driver, he may or may not read the driver the Miranda Warning, depending on the procedures of police department. He may wait until he transports the driver suspected of violating Missouri DWI law to the police station. Regardless, the officer will likely strike up a conversation with the driver before they reach the station. During this time, the Missouri DWI Enforcement officer may explain the steps that will occur once they arrive at the station, or he may talk about general items.
WHAT JUST HAPPENED DURING THIS EXCHANGE?
First, the driver admitted to consuming alcohol, a fact that will be used against him later in prosecution for violation of Missouri DWI law.
Second, the Missouri DWI enforcement officer got the driver to participate in a conversation, allowing the Missouri DWI enforcement officer to detect slurred, muttered, or incoherent speech; and, allowing the Missouri DWI Enforcement officer to smell the odor of alcohol. These are all factors that the officer can use to establish probable cause and testify to later in administrative hearings, and prosecution for violation of Missouri DWI law.
Third, and arguably most importantly, the officer induced the driver to submit to field sobriety tests, which the driver could have refused without any legal penalty and which will be used against the driver in both administrative hearings, and prosecution for violation of Missouri DWI law.
INSIDE THE POLICE STATION
Once inside the police station, the driver will be asked to submit to a Missouri DWI breath test. The driver can refuse to submit, but oftentimes don't; even when they know they should. Driver's don't refuse a Missouri DWI breath test because there is an inherent psychological pressure that Missouri DWI enforcement officers exert over people they come into contact with. It's called COMMAND PRESENCE! Well trained Missouri DWI Enforcement officers exude it; it becomes part of who they are. Poorly trained Missouri DWI Enforcement officers abuse it.
People arrested for a Missouri DWI usually are not career criminals. They have been brought up respecting authority, and they probably feel guilty for the situation they find themselves in when they are sitting in the Missouri DWI testing room. They will do what they feel will help them. They are afraid of confronting the police officer that has just arrested them for violation of Missouri DWI Law. Drivers think that if they take the test they may pass and get out of the Missouri DWI charges, or they think that they will get in more trouble for refusing.
Sometimes drivers will take the Missouri DWI breath test thinking that they "feel sober" now. They believe they are more mentally alert now than they were just before they were stopped so they must be okay to take the Missouri DWI breath test - maybe they've sobered up enough to pass. WRONG! People don't sober up that quickly. You may be more alert, but you are not soberer.
The liver continues to process alcohol at a constant rate. If you had been drinking just up until the time you were arrested for violation of Missouri DWI law, or had consumed a high volume of alcohol throughout the night, your blood alcohol content (BAC) will continue to rise as your body absorbs it. After your body has absorbed all of the alcohol and your liver has processed it, your BAC will begin to lower. Typically, your BAC will rise or lower at .02 per hour.
Regardless of whether the driver submits or refuses to the Missouri DWI breath test, the Missouri DWI Enforcement officer will ask him a series of questions from the Missouri DWI Alcohol Influence Report (A.I.R.). At the beginning of these questions, the Missouri DWI Enforcement officer will read the Miranda warning and Missouri’s DWI Implied Consent Law.
The driver is not required to answer these questions. But it is not uncommon for the driver arrested for violation of Kansas City DWI or Missouri DWI law to do so, even though there is no possible way answering them will help him or her. In fact, answering these questions will only give the police and prosecutor more evidence against the driver during the prosecution for violation of Missouri DWI law.
If the driver refuses to answer these questions, the Missouri DWI Enforcement officer will use some common tactics to persuade the driver to answer.
If you don’t answer, you’re uncooperative - WRONG!
First, the driver arrested for violation of Missouri DWI law may ask why these questions are being asked. The answer that most Missouri DWI Enforcement officers will give is something to the effect “I don’t know, it’s just paperwork I’m required to fill in whenever I arrest someone for a Missouri DWI.”
The driver may then ask, “Do I need an attorney.”
The Missouri DWI Enforcement officer’s typical response is along the lines of “I’m not a lawyer. I can’t tell you whether you need a lawyer. I don’t care if you answer these questions or not. This is the paperwork the state requires me to fill out. If you don’t answer I’ll just tell them that you were uncooperative and refused to answer the questions.”
Most people don’t want the Missouri DWI judge, Missouri DWI prosecutor, or whoever else may later read the officer’s Missouri DWI arrest report to think they were uncooperative. Also, some people may mistakenly believe that by refusing to answer these questions they will be subject to refusal penalties under the Missouri DWI Implied Consent Law. Therefore, they answer the questions out of fear, and to their detriment. There is no requirement that a driver arrested for violation of Missouri DWI law answer these questions.
Notice that the Missouri DWI Enforcement officer did not lie to during this exchange:
1. He told you that he’s not a lawyer and can’t tell you whether you need one. That’s basically true, except that they do know that if you have a lawyer at this stage of the proceedings you are less likely to comply with some of their requests, which are being conveyed to you as requirements. In reality, their requests are just more information that can, and will be used against you to convict you for violation of Missouri DWI law.
2. He told you that the State of Missouri requires him to fill out the paperwork. That’s true, kind of. The State of Missouri does mandate that he attempt to complete this paperwork on anyone he arrests for violation of Missouri DWI law. If you, however, refuse to answer the questions, there is no penalty for the officer, or the driver charged with a violation of Missouri DWI law.
3. He told you that he would write down that you were uncooperative and refused to answer. That’s true, but then again, you’re not required to cooperate by answering questions that will help the state successfully prosecute you for violation of Missouri DWI law. The mere statement that you were uncooperative will not affect the final outcome of the state’s case against the driver charged with a violation of Missouri DWI law. A skilled Missouri DWI attorney will be able to illicit this information from the Missouri DWI enforcement officer under cross-examination and show his bias against the driver.
Within these pages you will find information about:
- How officers identify potential Missouri DWI arrestees
- Fifteen ways we defend a Missouri DWI charge
- How to protect yourself if you ever are stopped for Missouri DWI
- Criminal penalties of a Missouri DWI conviction
- Information about Missouri DWI driver's license suspensions
- Information about Missouri DWI Field Sobriety Tests
- Information on how Missouri Courts rule on DWI law
- Information on how Frequently ask DWI questions
- Information on DWI law generally
- A breif overview of Missouri DWI's
- Our Legal Disclaimer
- Please visit our Law Firm Website at www.pauluslawfirm.com