Missouri, like all other states, has driving while intoxicated (DWI) laws that prohibit driving while using alcohol or drugs. Missouri's DWI laws include blood alcohol level limits, varying criminal penalties, suspension or revocation of driver's licenses, and an implied consent to alcohol and drug testing.
Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Limits
In Missouri, if a driver's BAC reaches a 0.08% then no other evidence of impairment is needed for the driver to be convicted of a DWI charge. This is called a "per se" BAC limit DWI law. Missouri law also permits an enhanced penalty (and "aggravated DWI") for having a BAC of 0.15% or higher. In addition, anyone under the legal drinking age in Missouri (21 years old) is subject to an even lower BAC level of 0.02%. This type of policy of is called a "zero tolerance law."
DWIs in Missouri carry varying criminal penalties based on the BAC level and the number of prior convictions. A first DWI offense is a Class B misdemeanor. The minimum jail time for a person with 0.15-0.2% BAC is 48 hours and for a BAC of more than 0.2% is 5 days. The maximum jail sentence for a Class B misdemeanor is 6 months and can come with a fine of up to $500.
For multiple alcohol and driving related convictions, the offender will have to serve more time in jail. For one prior conviction, a minimum of 10 days must be served. For two or more convictions, the minimum jail time is 30 days with some community service options for early release. For three or more convictions, the minimum is 60 days. Finally, for four or more convictions, the minimum sentence is two years.
In circuit courts that have DWI courts or where other court-ordered alcohol treatment is available, a person with a BAC over 0.15% or more must complete the program to receive a suspended sentence. Your driving record will also be allocated points for any vehicle related criminal convictions, which can result in a license suspension or revocation.
Administrative Penalties and License Suspensions
The State of Missouri automatically suspends or revokes the driving privileges of individuals convicted of a DWI. A first time DWI offense will get your license suspended for 90 days. Fortunately, you may be eligible to request an immediate "restricted driving privilege" where you can drive during this 90 day period with the installation of an Ignition Interlock Device (IID).
An IID requires a person to blow into the device without registering a BAC before the vehicle can start. You may also receive limited driving privileges after serving 30 days with a suspended license. However, some drivers may be ineligible for this, for example, if they were convicted of a motor vehicle related felony, leaving the scene of a car accident, or driving under the influence of drugs.
For a second DWI, you’ll normally receive a one-year revocation of your license. If you receive two DWIs in a five year period, you could receive a five year license denial. If you’re convicted of three or more alcohol or drug related traffic crimes, you'll have your license revoked for 10 years.
Individuals with commercial driving licenses are held to a higher standard than other drivers. If a driver is convicted of operating a commercial vehicle with a BAC of 0.04% or higher, then two points are added to his or her Missouri driving record, and he or she is disqualified from driving a commercial vehicle for one year. Drinking and driving can result in you losing your job.
You may be thinking, “With all of these consequences for drinking and driving, I'll just refuse to submit to any chemical tests for alcohol or drugs in my system if I'm pulled over.” You can do that, but because of Missouri's "implied consent" laws, your driving privileges will be revoked for one year, which in Missouri is referred to as "Chemical Revocation."
Getting Legal Help
If you or a loved one has been arrest for a DWI, it's a good idea to consult with an experienced DWI attorney. A lawyer can prepare a defense or plea bargain to keep you out of jail and get you back in the driver's seat as quickly as possible.