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Here’s why you should think twice before pleading guilty to DWI

You’ve been arrested on a DWI charge. After spending the night in jail, you’re feeling embarrassed and worried, and you want to put this experience behind you as soon as possible. The prosecutor approaches you with an offer: if you plead guilty, they will recommend to the judge that you not be sentenced to any more jail time.

It sounds like a good deal. Here’s why you should not take it — at least, not before you talk to a defense attorney.

First-offense DWI punishments in Missouri

Missouri’s DWI laws work the same as most states. The penalties for a first offense can be serious, but are relatively light for the vast majority of offenders. A standard DWI charge is a Class B misdemeanor for defendants with no prior drinking and driving convictions. While the maximum jail sentence for a Class B misdemeanor is six months, there is no minimum sentence.

After that, the sentences get tougher

However, if you have a prior DWI conviction on your record and are convicted of a second offense within five years, the law requires that you spend at least ten days in jail. The judge may also order you to participate in a court DWI program or perform 30 days of community service. A third offense is a Class D Felony and labels you a “persistent offender.” You will have to spend at least 30 days in jail.

Thinking long-term about your freedom

While you never plan on getting arrested for DWI again, you can’t know what will happen in the future. Instead of relying on the prosecution’s “advice,” you should consult a defense lawyer who regularly handles DWI cases. Your attorney can go over the details of the case with you and explain your options. For example, the prosecutor’s case against you might not be as strong as they claim. It may be possible to get the charges against you reduced or even dropped.

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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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