Missouri DWI Law
Being charged with a DWI is a scary thing. If you or your loved on finds themselves in this position, an experienced defense attorney at Twibell Pierson will dramatically help your chances to avoid jail time, lessen any possible fines, and maybe even 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 the legal limit for driving with alcohol in your system in Missouri?
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 have had, your body size, sex, if you have 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, typically 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 the legal limit for driving with illegal drugs in your system in Missouri?
Missouri actually does not have any legal limits set for having illegal drugs (such as marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, etc.) in your system. If you are pulled over and the officer suspects that you are 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 any 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 that are designed to determine whether or not 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. The officer is 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. The officer is not only looking for lack of balance, but even 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. Similarly, to the Walk and Turn, the officer is looking for lack of balance as well as the inability to correctly follow directions.
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 to be impaired under the influence of 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 by this point). You will likely be arrested under the “Implied Consent” law, but they will take your breath alcohol levels at the police station again anyway. You will be given twenty minutes to contact an attorney, so take this time to do so.
If the officer believes that you are under the influence of illegal drugs, you will likely be arrested at this point and then asked to submit to a drug test once at the police station. These tests typically do not happen at the site where you were pulled over.
What is Implied Consent?
Missouri law states that anyone who operates a vehicle is implicitly consented to DWI chemical testing if:
- They have been arrested under the assumption of operating a vehicle while intoxicated
- They are under 21 and assumed to have a BAC (blood alcohol content) greater than 0.02%
- They have 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 the defendant had something to hide. Lastly, in some cases, a judge can issue a warrant to instigate a blood test, even by force, to determine whether or not the person is intoxicated.
If I am convicted of a DWI, what are the possible punishments?
If it is your first DWI, you will have a 90-day suspension of your driver’s license. 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, the penalties increase. No restricted driving privileges will be allowed. No matter how long as it has been since your previous conviction, typically a one-year suspension of license will follow. If your previous conviction was within five years, you may also receive a five-year license suspension.
All of these suspensions also come with the possibility of fines, jail time, court fees, enforced classes to attend, etc. Getting convicted of a DWI can be very costly.
What kind of charge will a DWI result in?
A DWI in Missouri can range anywhere from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class A felony. See below:
- Class B Misdemeanor
- This is a first offense and no minors were in the vehicle
- Class A Misdemeanor
- The defendant is a prior offender
- There was a minor less than seventeen years old in the vehicle
- Class E Felony
- The defendant is a persistent offender or
- While driving, the defendant acts with criminal negligence to cause physical injury to another person
- Class D Felony
- The defendant is an aggravated offender or
- While driving, the defendant acts with criminal negligence to cause physical injury to law enforcement officer or emergency personnel or
- While driving, the defendant acts with criminal negligence to cause serious physical injury to another person
- Class C Felony
- The defendant is a chronic offender or
- While driving, the defendant acts with criminal negligence to cause serious physical injury to law enforcement officer or emergency personnel or
- While driving, the defendant acts with criminal negligence to cause death to another person
- Class B Felony
- The defendant is a habitual offender or
- While driving, the defendant acts with criminal negligence to cause the death of a law enforcement officer or emergency personnel or
- While driving, the defendant acts with criminal negligence to cause the death of any person not a passenger in the vehicle operated by the defendant, including the death of an individual that results from the defendant’s vehicle leaving a highway or the highway’s right-of-way or
- While driving, the defendant acts with criminal negligence to cause the death of two or more people or
- While driving with a BAC of 0.18%, the defendant acts with criminal negligence to cause the death of another person
- Class A Felony
- The defendant has a previous Class B Felony DWI charge
Being charged with a DWI is a very serious situation. By employing defense attorneys who have a track record of assisting DWI clients lessen or even eliminate punishments altogether, Twibell Pierson Criminal Law can help you maintain your livelihood, your reputation, and your future.