Missouri DWI Law
Being charged with a DWI is a scary thing. If you or your loved one finds themselves in this position, a Twibell Pierson experienced defense attorney will dramatically help your chances to avoid jail time, lessen possible fines, and possibly get the information expunged, or erased, from a permanent record.
What does DWI stand for?
DWI stands for Driving While Intoxicated. The intoxication, in this case, can stem from either alcohol or other drugs.
What is Missouri’s legal limit for driving with alcohol in your system?
The legal limit for alcohol allowed in your system while operating a motor vehicle is 0.08% of alcohol by weight. The percentage of alcohol in your system can vary based on many factors, including how many drinks you’ve had, your body size, sex, if you’ve recently eaten, etc. If your blood alcohol level is greater than 0.15%, you may be charged with aggravated DWI.
As a basis for comparison, an ounce of hard liquor, one domestic beer, or a five-ounce glass of wine will elevate your blood alcohol level by 0.02%. So, for a majority of people, four drinks will put someone over the legal limit.
What if I’m under 21?
The legal limit for alcohol allowed in your system while operating a motor vehicle is 0.02% or approximately one drink per the levels listed above.
What is Missouri’s legal limit for driving with illegal drugs in your system?
Missouri does not have legal limits set for illegal drugs (such as marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, etc.) in your system. If you’re pulled over, and the officer suspects that you’re under the influence of drugs, any amount could result in a DWI.
If the officer asks me to step out of the car to do a field sobriety test, may I refuse?
You must get out of the car, but you may refuse to participate in the field sobriety test. There are no legal consequences from declining to participate in the field portion of sobriety tests. You should request to speak to an attorney before submitting to the field sobriety test.
What exactly is a field sobriety test?
A field sobriety test is a series of tests designed to determine if a person is intoxicated. The tests themselves can vary from department to department but typically include:
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test
- The officer will have you follow a pen or flashlight with your eyes. They’re looking to see if your eyes follow the object smoothly without jerking or bouncing around.
- The Walk and Turn
- The officer will have you walk from heel to toe a pre-determined number of steps, rotate, and then return, all while counting your steps. They’re not only looking for lack of balance but, more importantly, a lack of following directions (not meeting your heel and toe, taking an incorrect number of steps, etc.)
- One Leg Stand
- The officer will have you stand with your arms at your sides, lifting one leg, and counting until the officer tells you to stop. Like the Walk and Turn, the officer is looking for lack of balance and the inability to follow directions correctly.
As you can see, some of these tests may be difficult to perform even if not impaired, which is why a seasoned DWI defense attorney might recommend not participating.
What happens after a field sobriety test?
If the officer believes you’re impaired by alcohol, he/she may give you a portable breath test (PBT), also known as a breathalyzer. Do not blow in the portable breathalyzer! Ask for your attorney (if you haven’t already). You’ll likely get arrested under the “Implied Consent” law, but they’ll take your breath alcohol levels at the police station anyway. You’ll have twenty minutes to contact an attorney. Take this time to do so!
If the officer believes you’re impaired by illegal drugs, you’ll likely be arrested and asked to submit to a drug test at the police station. These tests typically don’t happen at the site where the traffic stop occurred.
What is Implied Consent?
Missouri law states that anyone who operates a vehicle implicitly consents to DWI chemical testing if:
- They’re arrested under the assumption of operating a vehicle while intoxicated
- They’re under 21 and assumed to have a BAC (blood alcohol content) greater than 0.02%
- They’ve been in a serious or fatal car accident
Failing to take a chemical test (breath, blood, or urine) can result in a yearlong revocation of driving privileges. It can also lead to evidentiary use, whereby you can be prosecuted for DWI even if you were under the legal limit since refusing to participate in the test can indicate you had something to hide. In some cases, a judge can issue a warrant to instigate a blood test, even by force, to determine if the person is intoxicated.
What are the possible DWI punishments if convicted?
If it’s your first DWI, your driver’s license will be suspended for 90 days. You may be able to apply for immediate Restricted Driving Privilege (RDP) with the installation of an Ignition Interlock Device in your car, which requires you to blow a clean breath sample before the car will start. You may also apply to serve a 30-day complete suspension of your license followed by 60 days of restricted privileges.
If this is not your first alcohol or drug-related conviction, penalties increase. No restricted driving privileges will be allowed. No matter how long it has been since your previous conviction, typically, a one-year suspension of your license will follow. If your previous conviction was within five years, you might also receive a five-year license suspension.
These suspensions also come with the possibility of fines, jail time, court fees, enforced classes to attend, etc. Getting convicted for DWI can be very costly.
What kind of charge will result from a DWI?
A DWI in Missouri can range from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class A felony. See below:
- Class B Misdemeanor
- It’s the first offense and no minors were in the vehicle
- Class A Misdemeanor
- Defendant is a prior offender
- A minor less than seventeen years old was in the vehicle
- Class E Felony
- Defendant is a prior offender or
- While driving, defendant acts with criminal negligence to cause physical injury to another person
- Class D Felony
- Defendant is an aggravated offender or
- While driving, defendant acts with criminal negligence to cause physical injury to a law enforcement officer or emergency personnel or
- While driving, defendant acts with criminal negligence to cause serious physical injury to another person
- Class C Felony
- Defendant is a chronic offender or
- While driving, defendant acts with criminal negligence to cause serious physical injury to a law enforcement officer or emergency personnel or
- While driving, defendant acts with criminal negligence to cause death to another person
- Class B Felony
- Defendant is a habitual offender or
- While driving, defendant acts with criminal negligence to cause death of a law enforcement officer or emergency personnel or
- While driving, defendant acts with criminal negligence to cause death of any person not a passenger in the vehicle operated by defendant, including death of an individual that results from defendant’s vehicle leaving a highway or the highway’s right-of-way or
- While driving, defendant acts with criminal negligence to cause death of two or more people or
- While driving with a BAC of 0.18%, defendant acts with criminal negligence to cause death of another person
- Class A Felony
- Defendant has a previous Class B Felony DWI charge
Being charged for DWI is a dire situation. By employing defense attorneys who have a track record of assisting DWI clients in lessening or even eliminating punishments, Twibell Pierson Criminal Law can help you maintain your livelihood, reputation, and future.