Why Do Police Publicize DWI Checkpoints?

Have you ever wondered why police publicize DWI checkpoints in advance?  Naturally, one would think that unadvertised checkpoints would be more effective because drivers would be caught off guard.

As a general rule, police must have probable cause to stop a car.  Most commonly this occurs due to a traffic or equipment violation.  Randomly stopping law abiding drivers for no specific reason appears to violate this rule.

However, Missouri Courts provide that these checkpoints are legal.  This is justified by weighing the greater public interest in keeping drunk drivers off the road versus the minimal inconvenience to the driving public.  However, when conducting checkpoints, the police must try to minimize the intrusion and anxiety on the driver.

One way this is accomplished is through advance notice.  By making the community aware of checkpoints, drivers are more knowledgeable about the situation when stopped.  If they are put on notice, the anxiety and intrusion on the driver is arguably reduced.

The police need not publicize the specific dates, times or locations of the checkpoints, only the fact that they will occur soon.

Chad Gaddie is a criminal defense attorney who has practiced throughout Northwest Missouri for nearly 20 years.

State Court v. Municipal Court

     One of the first questions that I ask a client is whether they are charged in state or municipal court.  It is important to know the difference.

    Municipal court, also called city court, is a court that is operated by a local city.  It follows laws that are passed by the city council.  For a case to be filed in city court, it must have occurred within the city limits.  Municipal courts see a lot of minor traffic offenses, petty theft, code violations, and simple assault cases.  The range of punishment is fairly low.  Larger cities have municipal court on a daily basis, but small towns might only have court once a month. 

     Missouri state courts decide cases based upon laws written by the legislature in Jefferson City.  Each county has at least one judge who hears cases occurring within that county.  State courts handle misdemeanors and felonies, which can include harsher penalties, including years of incarceration.  Examples of state crimes might be chronic drunk driving, sexual assault, theft of significant amounts, and homicide.  

    Sometimes a crime occurs that can be prosecuted in either city court or state court.  For example, if a person drives while intoxicated, that is both a municipal and state violation.  It will either go to state court or municipal court based upon law enforcement policy such as whether the person is a prior offender, whether there was an accident, etc.  Fortunately, double jeopardy prevents the same offense from being tried in both state and municipal court.

 

 

Chad Gaddie is a criminal defense lawyer who has practiced in Northwest Missouri for nearly 20 years.

A change in Missouri marijuana laws

            A new law hit the books in 2017 dealing with Missouri marijuana cases.  Previously, there were only two categories of punishment for marijuana possession.  If you possessed over 35 grams of marijuana it was a class C felony, and if you possessed less than 35 grams, it was a class A misdemeanor.  Both classifications provided the possibility of a jail sentence.

         Now, there is a new class of punishment.  If you are a first time offender, and you possess less than ten grams of marijuana, it is a class D misdemeanor.  This brand new classification does not provide for any jail sentence and states that the maximum fine shall be $500.00.  Although jail might be off the table, a marijuana conviction can still carry consequences that extend beyond the courtroom.

        

Chad Gaddie is a criminal defense lawyer who has practiced throughout Northwest Missouri for nearly 20 years.   

10 Things to Know About a Missouri DWI

 

1.     You can get a DWI when the car is not moving.  The definition of driving is very broad and includes situations where people are just sitting in their cars with the engine running.  This happens a lot in the winter when the temperature is low.

2.     You can get a DWI for driving after taking prescription medications.  DWI cases are not limited to alcohol or illegal drugs.  Even if you have a prescription, you can get arrested if the officer suspects that you are impaired.

3.     You can get charged with DWI even if you blow below .08.  Most people think that the .08 standard is an absolute cutoff.  However, it is only the level where a person is legally presumed to be intoxicated.  People can still get arrested below .08, the case is just tougher to prove for the prosecutor.

4.     People get arrested for DWI the morning after drinking.  Simply put, people don’t sober up as fast as they think.  Some people are still impaired after a long night of drinking followed by an early alarm clock for work.  Sleep doesn’t equal sobriety.

5.     When they give you the “eye test” they are looking to see if you eye twitches.  The eye test is called the horizontal gaze nystagmus test.  As a person becomes impaired, their eye muscles become fatigued and don’t move the eye smoothly.  The officer isn’t looking to see whether you can follow his finger, he is checking how your eye reacts.

6.     DWI cases are not limited to alcohol.  They include impairment by marijuana and other drugs.  They don’t have a breath test for marijuana.  Those cases are proven by using an odor of marijuana and blood or urine tests.  Things become complex when a person might have used marijuana several weeks ago, but it still shows up in their system.

7.     You have to fight a DWI on two fronts.  When a person blows above a .08, they typically get both a ticket and a drivers license suspension notice.  You have to fight the ticket in court, but you have to fight the license suspension with the Department of Revenue.  These two events are independent of each other.

8.     Minors can lose their licenses for driving with a blood alcohol level above .02.  This is under a special law in Missouri called ‘Zero Tolerance.”

9.     You can get a DWI case while driving in a parking lot.  There is no requirement that your driving occur on a public street.  People can get a DWI in parking lots, fields, and even yards.

10.  Field sobriety tests are as much about listening to instructions as physical ability.  Before you begin taking the test, the officer gives you a set of instructions.  Listening to these instructions is important, because failure to follow them exactly impacts your score as much as failing the physical part of the test.

 

To learn more about Missouri DWI cases, click here.  Also, you can contact attorney Chad Gaddie at (816) 232-3430.

Making A Murderer

            There is big news for fans of Making a Murder, the wildly popular Netflix documentary.  Brendan Dassey, the sympathetic young nephew who was convicted as a co-defendant, won a key hearing today that puts him a big step closer to freedom.

            A federal judge in Wisconsin held that his “confession” was involuntary.  If you recall from the series, Brendan told a wild story about his involvement. A number of his statements were nearly impossible or inconsistent with the physical evidence.  The judge held that Brendan’s confession should not have been used against him because he was young, of limited intelligence, and without the presence of a parent or other supportive adult when he made the statements.

            The judge’s order gives the state 90 days to decide whether they want to retry him.  If they decide against it, Brendan will be freed.  If they decide to retry him, they will have to do so without using the “confession” in the new trial.  If you have some free time on your hands, you can read the full 91 page opinion here.

The Justin Ross Case

Several people are following the Justin Ross case in Cobb County, George.  The case stems from a father that left his young child in the back of a car.  The child died from heat and dehydration. The father claims it was a tragic accident and the district attorney is calling it premeditated murder.  You can get a summary of the case here.

There is also a great podcast that provides an in-depth look into the current status of the case. The podcast takes a significant amount of time to listen to, but really provides great insight into the struggles of criminal defense.

Missouri SJR 39 - Unintended Consequences?

The Missouri legislature is currently debating SJR 39.  On the surface, this bill is written to shield from "punishment" those who do not wish to provide services to same-sex couples.  The bill is controversial, and generally framed in the context of those businesses in the wedding industry.

A group of Missouri legal professors are weighing in on the topic.  First of all, they claim that the bill violates the establishment clause of the constitution.  However, more strikingly, they also argue that the bill provides a defense for those who commit criminal acts based upon their "sincerely held religious beliefs."  Their arguments provide a fascinating analysis of the proposed law.  It will be interesting to see if the legislature scraps the bill entirely or attempts an amendment to exclude criminal activities.  Read the full legal analysis here.

Missouri Case.net

One of the best online tools for the public is Missouri Case.net.  This is a publicly operated site that provides online information about court cases.  The website allows you to search for cases via litigant names or by case number.

Current defendants can use this site to access developments on their case.  They can also use it to view pending court dates.  Lawyers can access a special part of the site that allows them to view PDF files of court documents.

To check out Missouri Case.net for yourself, click here.