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DWI PLEA BARGAINS
A plea bargain is a voluntary resolution of the DWI charges against you. The plea bargain must be agreed by you and the prosecutor and approved by the judge. The plea bargain that will be offered by the prosecutor and approved by a judge depends on the facts and circumstances of your case, including your driving and criminal record, whether you have any prior DWI arrests, and whether you have any viable defenses to the DWI charges. The plea bargain may involve a Suspended Imposition of Sentence (discussed below) and/or may involve pleading guilty to a lesser offense. Below we discuss some possible aspects of a DWI plea bargain. Please keep in mind that there is no way to know with certainty what plea bargain (or whether any plea bargain) will be offered by the prosecutor and approved by the judge, and we cannot offer any guidance to you regarding plea bargains that may be available to you in your case until we have met with you and discussed the facts of your case in detail.
- Suspended Imposition of Sentence (SIS):
Some DWI charges can be resolved by a Plea Bargain known as a Suspended Imposition of Sentence (SIS). In such a case, you waive your right to a trial and plead guilty to the DWI; however, the DWI conviction is not entered onto your criminal record. Instead, the plea bargain is maintained in your file during the probationary period. If you successfully complete all of the terms of your probation, you will not be convicted of the DWI and the criminal case will be closed. If you violate the terms of the probation, a probation revocation hearing will occur. At the probation revocation hearing, the Court will decide whether to revoke your probation, enter your previous guilty plea into the record, and sentence you for the DWI conviction.
- Plead Guilty to a Lesser Charge:
In some instances (almost always a first DWI), the plea bargain may involve pleading guilty to a lesser offense, such as reckless and indifferent driving. Such a plea bargain allows the driver to avoid an alcohol related offense on his or her driving record, which can have negative employment and personal consequences.
- Substance Abuse Traffic Offender Program (SATOP):
As a condition of any plea bargain, the judge will likely require that you complete the Substance Abuse Traffic Offender Program (SATOP). You will also be required to complete the program as a condition of the return or issuance of a driver's license after an administrative DWI suspension or revocation, or a point suspension or revocation resulting from an alcohol-related traffic conviction. The program consists of three levels. The first level is the offender education class or program (OEP) which is generally reserved for first time offenders whose BAC reading was .17 or less. The second level is the Weekend Intervention Program (WIP) which is for persons with drinking problems, one prior offense, or whose BAC readings are in excess of .17. The third and highest level is the Clinical Intervention Program (CIP) which is for persons with drinking problems, two prior offenses, or with very high BAC readings (.20 or above).
The SATOP involves an evaluation and interview process that is used to assign you to one of the above SATOP classes. A fee of approximately $271 is due at your initial evaluation and interview (fees for a re-assessment are $125). When you attend your class there is an additional fee due of approximately $100, depending on the type of class you are assigned. For a SATOP treatment class locations in Missouri and the St. Louis area click here.
- Vehicle Ignition Interlock Devices:
If you plead guilty to or are found guilty of a first offense DWI or BAC, the court may order you to install an ignition interlock on your car as a condition of probation. You must blow into this device to start your car, and periodically while driving. If the device detects alcohol on your breath, the car will not start, a record of that fact will be made, and the judge will be notified. In Missouri, if you plead guilty to or are found guilty of a second or subsequent DWI or BAC, the judge must order you to install the device on your vehicle.
Almost all plea bargains will involve the payment of a fine. The amount of the fine will depend on the facts and circumstances of your case, including your driving and criminal record, whether you have any prior DWI arrests, and whether you have any viable defenses to the DWI charges.
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