Tips & Advice

DWI/DUI Refusal Cases; Most Asked Questions:

1. Do I have to file proof of SR-22 insurance for a refusal in my Missouri DUI/DWI case?

No.  This is because it is not a revocation made under RSMo. Chapter 302.  Note, however, that if you wish to drive on a limited driving privilege after ninety (90) days of the suspension, you will have to file an SR-22 for the duration of the year-long limited driving privilege period.

2. Do I have a right to speak with an attorney in a refusal case?

Yes, but this is very limited when you are wanting to speak to an attorney before refusing the chemical test.  Three things must happen before the police officer is required to give you 20 minutes to contact an attorney: 1) The implied consent warnings must be read to you; 2) The officer must request you to submit to a chemical test; and 3) you must ask to speak to an attorney.  Click here for more information.

3. Why do I have two separate hearings (one criminal, one civil) for my Missouri DUI/DWI case?

Basically, the state of Missouri wants two bites at the apple.  Civil cases have a lower standard of proof, so if they can’t beat you in criminal court, they will try to beat you in civil court.  You may still be revoked for a refusal even if you are acquitted of DWI in the criminal portion of your Missouri DUI/DWI case.

Even if you prove that the officer didn’t have probably cause for the arrest during your criminal case, it is irrelevant to the civil refusal portion of the case. Thus, this means you can win and get the criminal portion of your case dismissed but still lose your license for one year for refusing a chemical test in Missouri.

4. Who handles the civil administrative refusal hearing for my Missouri DUI/DWI case?

RSMo. Section 577.041 or 302.311 requires county prosecutors to handle civil refusal hearings, but attorneys for the Director of Revenue may also appear in these cases.

5. What are the consequences for refusal of a chemical test?

For each refusal offense, there will be a one year revocation of your license.  You will need to take another driving test if your driver’s license is expired for over six (6) months.

6. After my Missouri DUI/DWI case, can I get a limited driving privilege to go to work during my one-year driver’s license refusal suspension?

Maybe.  If you receive a one-year suspension of your Missouri driving privileges, you can sometimes eligible for a limited driving privilege after the first ninety (90) days of the one-year suspension.  This is only applicable for your first refusal offense. Your are ineligible for a limited driving privilege for any subsequent refusal offenses.

7. Can I have my refusal suspension expunged from my driving record in Missouri?

No.  Expungement is not an option in civil refusal cases in Missouri.

What Not to do After an Auto Accident

When involved in an auto accident, there are several things you can do that will absolutely destroy your case.  Being armed with the right information will help keep you from falling prey to the insurance companies when they come calling.

TIP #1: Never give a statement, recorded or otherwise, to the other driver’s insurance company or your insurance company without first consulting a personal injury attorney.

Statements can only be used against you. Insurance adjusters are trained to get specific information from you in order to weaken your case and avoid paying out on the claim. The insurance companies are in business for themselves, not to pay you! What you say in a short conversation can be distorted or taken out of context and used to obscure the truth about what happened to cause your loss or injury. For this reason, you need an experienced lawyer who knows how to deal with the insurance companies.

TIP #2: Never admit responsibility for the accident to anyone at the accident scene.

If you are issued a ticket, this does not mean you can’t prevail against the negligent party.  Police Officers sometimes give tickets for matters unrelated to the cause of the collision, such as seat belt and proof of insurance violations.

TIP #3: Do not argue with police officers at the scene – Officers investigating a traffic accident scene are there to see if a traffic violation or other criminal offense has been committed by either you or the other party(s) involved in the accident.

Even though the officer will prepare a documented accident report and can issue a traffic ticket, the officer’s decision is only preliminary and can be disputed before a judge and jury. His report does not determine guilt or innocence. Hiring a lawyer can help make sure the facts are correct if your case goes to trial

TIP #4: Do not avoid going to see a doctor – Many people after an accident thing they feel fine and visiting a doctor is not required.

That can be a costly mistake! It’s important that you see a doctor as soon after the accident as you possibly can. Your injuries could be far more serious than you initially realize and sometimes these injuries will take time to set in. What may seem like a little bump or bruise at the collision scene can turn out to be a serious injury to your neck, back, head or other part of your body after a few days of progressively worsening swelling, pain and stiffness. These types of conditions can require active treatment to prevent them from becoming worse. It’s important to keep in mind that if you are not seen by a doctor at a hospital emergency room or in a doctor’s office after the collision, an insurance company will argue that is because you are not hurt, even if you are. Allow a qualified physician to determine whether you are injured rather than risking your health by making that determination yourself.

TIP #5: Do not plead guilty when you appear in court.

Contact an experienced personal injury attorney prior to your court date.  They can best advise you on how to handle your court appearance.

TIP #6: If you were clearly not at fault, never leave the scene of the accident without first notifying the police and obtaining a police report.

It is important for the preservation of your rights that the police document the circumstances of the accident.

TIP #7: Do not forget to document your evidence – Take many pictures of your injuries and of the accident scene if possible.

Most cell phones today have a camera built in so take as many pictures as possible. The better the quality the pictures are, the better your documentation so use a digital camera is available. Your ability to recover compensation for an injury is strongly linked to your ability to show what that injury is. Often photographs provide information that cannot be adequately described using words alone or which must be captured and recorded before healing occurs. An insurance adjuster and a jury panel will be much more inclined to accept the indisputable evidence of a photograph, not to mention that a trained defense lawyer will attempt to knock your testimony if relying on word alone. Photos can be your very best protection. Look to see if there are potholes, skid marks, stop signs, vehicle damage, etc. and take pictures. In addition, don’t forget to secure evidence that will help you prove your case. This includes witnesses and their contact information. Do not rely on the officer’s accident report to provide that information. Once those witnesses have left the scene, you may have no way of ever contacting them again.

TIP #8: Do not sign any document that is a full or partial release of your claim.

All documents that release your claim should be reviewed by your attorney. The terms of a release and the amount of compensation offered by an insurance company should always be reviewed by a professional to protect your legal rights. Once you sign that release form, that’s it. The insurance company will not offer you the true value of your claim because they will try to minimize your injuries and losses. Insurance company adjusters are trained to get you to settle for less than you deserve. Always hire a lawyer to combat the insurance company and to ensure that your settlement if fair and just.

Choosing the Right Attorney for You (emphasis on YOU)

While of course I would prefer that you choose to hire me as your personal injury attorney if you’re injured by a defective product, medical negligence, or an auto accident, but here are 10 tips for making your decision.  I’m confident that after reviewing these tips, I’m the right attorney for your case.

Here is a hypothetical for you.  You’ve been seriously injured in an auto accident. You’ve got a broken arm, an out-of-whack disc in your back, and numerous cuts and bruises. The other driver ran through a red light, so he’s at fault.

You’re constantly bombarded with advertisements about how attorneys have collected tons of money for clients who’ve been injured in car crashes. But are they the right attorney for you?

How much an attorney forks over for advertising doesn’t necessarily mean he/she is a good or bad attorney. Here are 10 tips on how to find the right personal injury lawyer when you’ve been injured by someone else’s negligence.

TIP #1: Know when to contact a personal injury attorney.

Auto accident injuries run the gamut from minor to serious. Medical negligence and product liability cases, on the other hand, usually tend to be more serious.  If you think your injury may warrant legal action, contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the harder it is to take a case to trial. As time goes on, witnesses and evidence may be hard to locate, and even worse, the defendant may have fled the country (This unfortunately happened to one of my clients because she waited so long to hire an attorney.  Luckily, we tracked the defendant down.).

TIP #2: Find a law firm that specializes in your specific issue.

It’s important that a client find an attorney who has dealt with the specific issues related to your case. If a client has a spinal cord injury, he should seek an attorney who has handled that issue.  Likewise, you wouldn’t hire a chiropractor to fix your sore tooth.

TIP #3: Get referrals.

Friends and family are the perfect place to get referrals. If you have used an attorney in the past for a will or for some other reason, ask them for a referral. Keep in mind that a lawyer who refers clients typically earns a referral fee for this, amounting to about one-third of the personal injury attorney’s contingency fee.

TIP #4: Do your research — beyond the ads.

While some upstanding, reliable attorneys fork over big bucks for advertising blitzes, other reputable attorneys don’t spend a dime on marketing. Consumers shouldn’t make a decision simply based on clever advertising. To find a reputable attorney, check an attorney’s record on the website of the state bar association, and contact a lawyer referral service operated by a local or state bar association.

TIP #5: Make sure you know which attorney will oversee your case.

Oftentimes, the firm’s lead attorney may not be handling many cases, particularly smaller ones.  A personal injury attorney typically collects about one-third of a personal injury settlement or judgment involving an auto accident and about 40% for product liability and medical malpractice cases.  That’s why it’s so important that a client meet the attorney who’ll be assigned to the case so that there are no surprises.  When it comes to trial, you want to make sure you have the lawyer of your choice.

TIP #6: Interview the attorney.

Consumers should ask an attorney an array of questions to learn more about him or her.  Ask a lot of questions to find out if this attorney has the skills and experience that match your needs.

TIP #7: Ask whether the attorney leans toward settlements or trials.

Before you hire a personal injury attorney, you’ll want to ask whether he or she tends to go to trial or settle cases out of court.  Most cases are settled out of court.  However, the very best attorneys are never afraid to file a lawsuit when the other side starts to play hardball.

TIP #8: Find out whether the attorney is a sole practitioner or has a large staff.

Some clients are more comfortable with larger firms, while others prefer a sole practitioner. Each type of firm has its pros and cons. Solo practitioners say they’re readily available to serve their clients, and client matters won’t get lost in the shuffle. But lawyers at bigger law firms argue that a large staff ensures clients’ needs are met, even if some attorneys are busy with other cases.

TIP #9: Inquire upfront about costs.

Auto insurance companies won’t cover the cost for hiring an attorney to file a lawsuit after an injury.  In most cases, attorneys who handle personal injury cases do so on a contingency basis. This means the lawyer doesn’t get paid unless the client wins.

Still, some lawyers (not me) do ask for upfront costs, regardless of a loss. That’s why it’s critical that consumers are clear about costs from the outset.  Especially remember to ask about copying fees, etc.  While we do not charge for each page we copy, some firms do.

TIP #10: Be leery of promises.

A thorough attorney will spend a great deal of time investigating your case and won’t make predictions about an expected payout or settlement.  If a personal injury attorney is promising you a lot of money, you might want to be skeptical.  I have recovered hundreds of thousands of dollars for my clients, and I haven’t promised any of them how much money they would recover.

Things You Should Never Do When Talking With a Police Officer

When speaking with the police, it is important to keep calm and pay attention.  The following tips are just a starting point.  When push comes to shove, remember these words: “I want my attorney.”

TIP # 1: Never raise your voice or challenge the officer even if he is confrontational and raises his voice. It’s not a bad idea to address the officer as “sir,” “officer” or “officer (last name). Ask yourself if you’d rather be right or arrested.

TIP # 2: Never ignore the officer’s directions. Nobody likes being ignored.

TIP # 3: Never demand anything from the police officer. It’s great that you pay taxes, everybody does.

TIP # 4: Never ask the officer for his badge number; instead memorize it.

TIP # 5: Never tell the officer that you are going to report him. You might as well say: “take me straight to jail.”

Important Things You Need to Know About Your Criminal Case

TIP #1: If law enforcement request to search your house, car or person, you are perfectly within your rights to say NO and seek advice from an Attorney.

TIP #2: You can be subjected to greater penalties under DUI/DWI laws if you refuse to take a breathalyzer test (loss of license, fines, etc.).

TIP #3: Operating a vehicle while your driver’s license is suspended or revoked will subject you to additional penalties, including the additional loss of driving privileges.

TIP #4: If you have prior convictions on your record, you may be subject to certain sentencing enhancements for future convictions, which can increase your prison sentence.

TIP #5: You are permitted to consult an attorney before or during questioning by the Police or Government Agency even if you are not under arrest.  If you ask for an attorney, they must grant your request.

TIP #6: Certain criminal offenses can be permanently removed from your record through the expungement process, depending on your age or the outcome of your previous offense.

TIP #7: Certain juveniles can be charged as adults for various serious crimes.

TIP #8: Your appeal can be dismissed if not properly filed with the correct Court within the permissible time period and asserting your legal issues with specificity.

TIP #9: You may be subject to Mandatory Minimum Sentences if you are convicted of certain criminal offenses.

TIP #10: You may be subjected to additional penalties if you are found guilty or plead guilty to an offense while on probation or parole.