The Firm

Criminal Law Glossary

Following is a list of terms related to DWI law

Announcement

A court hearing where either the prosecutor or defense wishes to inform the judge of some fact or circumstance (i.e. the defense wishes to inform the judge that the defendant would like to withdraw a former plea of not guilty and enter a plea of guilty.)

Blood Alcohol Content

Blood alcohol content is the amount of alcohol present in a 100 milliliter (mL) volume of blood. For example 80 mg is 0.08 grams, 0.08 grams of alcohol in 100 mLs is written as 0.08%. In other words, 80 mg% is equal to 0.08% which is equal to 80 mg/dL (deciliter; 100 mLs). This value can also be described as 0.08 BAC.

Blood Test

A laboratory test that directly measures the percentage of alcohol content in the blood drawn.

Bond

A promise to appear in court, which often includes a guarantee of money, and which is required for a person who has been arrested to get out of jail while waiting to resolve the case. (Sometimes called bail or a bail bond.)

Burn Off

Determination of how fast the body can eliminate alcohol from the system through the organs of our body. This varies from person to person depending on many factors, such as weight, age and more.

Charge

The formal statement that details what the arrested person is accused of doing. A charge may be brought by an information, which is a sworn statement filed in court by a prosecutor; or by an indictment, which is filed by a grand jury.

Defendant

The person who is accused of committing a crime.

Evidence

Testimony, physical objects, or other items that either the prosecutor or the defense wishes to introduce in court during a hearing or a trial.

Information and Indictment

The two types of documents that may be used to state the charge or charges against the defendant.

Missouri Implied Consent Law

In 1964, Missouri passed the state’s first “Implied Consent” law. Under that law, everyone who operates a motor vehicle in Missouri impliedly consents to giving a blood, breath, saliva or urine sample to determine the alcohol content of their blood if arrested upon reasonable grounds to believe they were driving a motor vehicle while in an intoxicated or drugged condition. Failure to take the test results in the revocation of the driver’s license.

Not Guilty

Either a plea of not guilty by the defendant, or a verdict of not guilty from a judge or jury after a trial. A verdict of not guilty means that the defendant is considered under the law to have not committed the crime charged.

Guilty

Either a plea of guilty by the defendant, or a verdict of guilty from a judge or jury after a trial. A plea or verdict of guilty means that the defendant is considered under the law to have committed the crime charged.

Grand Jury

Twelve citizens chosen from the community who hear evidence presented by the prosecutor and then decide whether the case is suitable for a trial. Grand jury meetings are held in private and are not open to the public.

(Petit) Jury

Twelve citizens chosen from the community who are asked questions to determine if they can be fair, who hear the evidence in a trial and decide what to believe, whether to vote guilty or not guilty, and sometimes decide a punishment.

Preliminary Hearing

A court proceeding where a judge hears evidence to decide whether the case is suitable for a trial. If arrested for a felony, the defendant has a right to a preliminary hearing unless he/she waives that right, or unless the prosecutor takes the case to a grand jury.

Probation

An alternative to a fine, jail time, or prison time. The judge may set conditions of probation, and the probation may be supervised by the court or by a probation officer. Violation of probation may result in the revocation of probation and having to pay a fine or spend time in jail or prison.

Prosecutor

The lawyer for the State of Missouri.

Sentence

The length of time in prison or in jail that is imposed on the defendant by the judge upon a finding of guilty. In some cases, the sentence is set by the jury. For some crimes, the sentence can be a fine instead of time in jail.

Suspended Imposition of Sentence (SIS)

A suspended imposition of sentence (SIS) is essentially a probation period (with the possibility of avoiding a conviction) following a plea or finding of guilty. For example, if a person pleads guilty to a Class B misdemeanor charge of DWI and receives a 24 month SIS, the Court is requiring the defendant to stay out of trouble for the next 24 months. If the defendant stays out of trouble, the defendant avoid a criminal conviction and the record is sealed. This disposition will not appear on the defendant’s driving record. If, on the other hand, the defendant is charged or convicted of another misdemeanor of felony (usually not minor traffic offenses though), the Court can revoke the defendant’s probation and put the defendant in jail or prison (depending on the nature of the crime). If probation is revoked, the DWI will be converted into a conviction and it will now appear on the defendant’s criminal record and driving record.

Suspended Execution of Sentence (SES)

A suspended execution of sentence (SES) is a conviction with a stay on all or part of the imposed jail or prison sentence. In other words, if a judge sentences the defendant to 90 days in jail, but then says that he or she will not order the execution of the sentence and instead places the defendant on probation, this is an SES disposition. During the defendant’s probation, he must avoid being charged or convicted of another misdemeanor or felony (usually not minor traffic offenses though). In the event the defendant is charged or convicted of another offense, the Court can revoke the defendant’s probation and send the defendant to jail for his original 90 day sentence. Upon the successful completion of the probation period, the defendant will still have a conviction for the underlying offense, but the defendant will have avoided serving any jail time.

Voir Dire

The process of questioning potential jurors to determine if they can be fair.

Waive

To voluntarily give up a right.