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Saturday, December 26, 2009


Missouri Governor Jay Nix has convened a panel of more than two dozen law enforcement officers, attorneys, judges and anti-drunk driving activists in Jefferson City for the purpose of developing ideas for tougher DWI legislation, which will be proposed during the 2010 legislative session.

Governor Nixon advised the panel of his desire for tougher DWI penalties in Missouri. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Nixon said one-third of repeat DWI offenders are charged with a misdemeanor instead of a felony, and that there are obstacles preventing police and prosecutors from sharing information about prior offenses.

Among those attending was Dwight Scroggins, a prosecuting attorney from St. Joseph. The Post-Dispatch reported that Scroggins told the gathering that one of the biggest problems is that those pulled over for DWI are often treated as first-time offenders who just made a mistake. "The reality is someone who gets arrested on a first-offense DWI is in all likelihood a multiple-time repeat drunk driver who has just gotten caught for the first time," Scroggins said.

The proposed solutions include making it a crime to refuse to submit to a breathalyzer test; removing DWI cases from municipal courts, which have low DWI convictin rates; creating a public database for drunk drivers, similar to the state's sex offender registry; and further expanding the use of ignition interlock devices.

City of St. Louis changes plea bargain policy for first DWI

City of St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay recently announced a change in the policy of offering plea bargains to drivers charged with their first DWI. In many cases involving a driver's first DWI charge, City Prosecutors have been willing to offer a plea bargain where the driver pleads guilty to a lesser charge, or enters into a Suspended Imposition of Sentence (SIS). The result of these plea bargains was that no DWI conviction appeared on the driver's record.

Mayor Slay announced that City Prosecutors will change the policy for offering plea bargains for first time DWI charges. The extent of the City policy change is not yet clear; however, it appears that City Prosecutors will be less willing to offer reduced charges and SIS for first time charges.

City Prosecutors prosecute about 500 DWI cases a year, which are typically first-time DWI offenses. Cases in which the driver has a prior DWI conviction are typically referred to state courts for prosecution. The City Prosecutor's Office has indicated that the City will continue prosecuting first-time DWI cases, while referring cases involving a prior DWI conviction to state courts.

Chris Wegner was a public Defender in the City of St. Louis for ten years, and he tried over 75 jury trials. Wegner Buchanan has extensive experience in criminal defense and can defend you against DWI charges. For more information regarding DWI law and your rights, please see our DWI Guide. If you have been charged with a DWI, CALL US TODAY AT 314-726-6464 AND WE WILL MEET WITH YOU AT NO CHARGE TO DISCUSS YOUR CASE.