Missouri law prohibits the operation of a vehicle while in an “intoxicated condition.” Missouri’s statutes use the term “driving while intoxicated” (DWI), but many people still refer to the offense as “driving under the influence” or “DUI.” (Missouri also has statutes extending this prohibition to the operation of a motorboat.)
Operation of a vehicle. Operation of a vehicle includes driving and being in actual physical control of a vehicle. “Actual physical control” of a vehicle doesn’t require that the car actually be in motion—only that the driver be in a position to restrain or regulate the movements of the vehicle.
Intoxicated condition. A driver is considered to be in an “intoxicated condition” if under the influence of any combination of drugs, alcohol, or controlled substances or he or she has an excessive blood alcohol concentration (BAC). An excessive BAC is .04% or more for commercial drivers and .08% or more for all other drivers.
Generally, a first offense DWI is a class B misdemeanor in Missouri. A DWI is considered a first offense If the driver has no prior DWI convictions within the past five years and no more than one prior DWI conviction in his or her lifetime. Motorists who are convicted of a first DWI typically face probation or treatment, a fine, and license suspension. This article discusses the specific penalties first DWI offenders face in Missouri.
Jail time. A first-offense DWI carries a maximum jail sentence of six months. If the judge chooses to suspend the jail sentence, the convicted motorist must complete two years of probation or court-ordered substance abuse treatment. However, for drivers with a BAC of .15% or more, there’s a minimum 48-hour jail term. And drivers with a BAC of at least .2% must serve at least five days in jail.
The court can also require continuous alcohol monitoring as well as random testing. Failure to comply with these requirements can result in the imposition of the jail sentence.
Fines. A person who’s convicted of a first-offense DWI faces fines of up to $1,000. In addition to fines, drivers may be required to pay various fees and court costs.
Criminal consequences and the classification of the offense are elevated in certain circumstances. For example, a first DWI offense involving serious injury to another person is a felony and can result in multiple years in prison.
Separate from the criminal charges and consequences, the State of Missouri will also administratively suspend a driver’s license for a DWI. At the time of the arrest, the officer seizes the driver’s license and issues a temporary permit. After the expiration of the temporary permit, the driver’s license is ordinarily suspended for 30 days if the driver has no prior DWI suspensions or convictions within the past five years. The suspension is followed by a 60-day restricted license. (A driver might also be eligible to obtain a restricted license with the installation of an ignition interlock device in lieu of the suspension.)
Prior to license reinstatement, the licensee will have to complete a substance abuse traffic offender program approved by the State of Missouri.
The penalties and repercussions of a DWI can be daunting. But with the help of a good DWI attorney—and depending on the circumstances—you may be able to mitigate or avoid some or all of the consequences. If you’ve been arrested for driving while intoxicated, you should visit with a skilled attorney who can help you identify and assess your options.