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Statute of limitations for DWI charges can be years

When Missouri authorities arrest a driver for DWI, it may mean the start of a potentially lengthy duration of legal activity without filed charges at that time. A police investigation is often the start of that action.

However, eventually, the authorities will determine if and when they have sufficient evidence to bring charges against the suspect. It can be many months or even years before law enforcement brings charges, leaving a possible suspect in limbo as to whether he or she will have to defend charges.

Driver waits eight months for the filing of charges

After the 2014 tragedy in St. Louis where a drunk driver killed a 20-year-old driver and seriously injured his 16-year-old girlfriend-passenger, authorities took almost eight months to file charges.

Part of the time-taking may have been because it took months for toxicology results that showed the driver was over twice the legal limit of blood alcohol concentration. In addition, the investigators sought DNA results.

DNA is not a test often needed in a DWI case. However, in this case, it was presumably to prove the person who ran from the accident was, indeed, the driver of the vehicle who was involved in the accident.

The results showed the blood on the driver's side airbag of the vehicle involved in the accident was that of the defendant, thereby providing evidence of identity of the guilty party.

Felony and misdemeanor DWI charges have lengthy time limits

Although eight months is longer than it takes for many more typical DWI charges, it could have gone longer. Missouri law, specifically section 556.036, covers the statutes of limitation for the filing of charges for various crimes.

For misdemeanor crimes, which DWIs often are, the time limit is one year. However, for most felony crimes, the deadline extends to three years, with very serious crimes such as murder and forcible rape having no statute of limitations deadline at all.

While suspects are waiting to learn if they will see charges, they should be aware that much investigation and legal positioning may take place by the State. Suspects may best serve themselves by immediately starting the building of a legal defense while still enjoying freedom and while proofs of innocence may still be available.

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Travis Noble is a graduate of the National College for DUI Defense at Harvard University, and he lectures at seminars nationwide on DWI/DUI topics. He is the lawyer whom other lawyers consult to defend their DWI clients. Most importantly, he has a track record of successfully defending some of the toughest DWI cases in Missouri and beyond.

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