The administrative alcohol suspension is an important aspect of DWI cases in St. Charles. The administrative alcohol suspension applies in cases involving BAC results obtained from a test of a driver's blood, breath, or urine. Understanding the administrative alcohol suspension as a civil action separate and apart from the criminal charge of DWI is an important step to dealing with the technical requirements inherent in this suspension.
This week we take a look at when this suspenion applies, how it affects drivers, and how drivers can fight the suspension.
The administrative alcohol suspension is applied following an arrest for DWI where the arresting officer secured a test of the blood, breath, or urine, and that test indicated a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or more. That is, provided the driver is of legal drinking age. If the driver is under 21 the standard is different. When a driver is under 21, this administrative suspension is applied when there is a stop for a traffic offense and a chemical test shows the driver's blood alcohol content is 0.02% or more.
When a driver's chemical test shows the driver is above the legal limit, the arresting officer will confiscate the driver's license and will provide the driver a notice of suspension. The notice is generally in the form of Missouri DOR Form 2385. If the test results aren't immediately available to the officer, the director will mail notice to the driver. The notice is deemed received three days after mailing. This is true whether or not the notice is actually received. § 302.515.2 RSMo. The suspension becomes effective 15 days from the delivery of the notice.
This suspension affects drivers differently depending on the driver's history. If the driver has no previous alcohol-related contacts within the previous five years, the driver's privileges will be suspended for 30 days. The 30-day suspension is followed by a 60-day restricted driving period. See § 302.525 RSMo. The restricted driving period requires the driver to file with the Director of Revenue proof of financial responsibility (commonly an SR-22).
If the driver has one or more alcohol-related contacts within the previous five years, the driver will be subject to a one year suspension.
Drivers face serious challenges in fighting the administrative alcohol suspension in St. Charles. The first hurdle a driver faces is correctly requesting a review of the suspension within the 15-day time limit. Drivers who fail to timely file the request for review effectively lose their right to contest suspension. One key benefit of timely filing the request for review is that the suspension is stayed pending the outcome of the review. Provided the driver is not otherwise suspended, the driver retains full driving privileges.
Provided the driver's request for review is filed on time, the driver faces certain evidentiary challenges created by the Missouri General Assembly when it adopted § 302.312 RSMo.. Section 302.312 effectively eliminates key foundational challenges to Department of Revenue records. DOR records are admissible without having to lay foundation normally required for similar records in other types of cases.
Court rulings provide that the exclusionary rule is unavailable in administrative alcohol suspension cases. The exclusionary rule works to prevent the admission of evidence obtained following an illegal stop or illegal arrest. Put simply, an illegal arrest doesn't prevent a resulting administraive suspension. See Riche v. Director of Revenue, SC80861 (Mo. banc 1999).
The director's burden at the administrative review hearing is proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, that 1) the driver was arrested for an alcohol-related traffice offense; 2) the driver was tested in accord with Department of Health regulations; and 3) the test results show the driver's BAC was at or above the legal limit. Bearing in mind the effect of § 302.312 RSMo., the director can make a sustainable case solely using copies of the arresting officer's alcohol influence report, narrative, and the citation issued by the police officer. The director doesn't need to introduce live testimony.
Keeping in mind these challenges, drivers are well-served to hire an attorney with the experience necessary to effectively defend administrative alcohol suspensions.