Each state deals with a DUI (driving under the influence) a little differently, and Missouri DUI laws are no exception. Missouri is unique because it was the 18th state to order ignition interlocks for certain convicted drivers. The ignition interlock system is a breathalyzer device that is connected to a person’s vehicle.
The driver must blow into the mouth piece before the vehicle will start. Besides the ignition interlock system, Missouri law has specifics in regards to blood alcohol limits, what happens when you get pulled over, what your options are, and penalties you can expect.
What Is the Blood Alcohol Concentration Limit?
According to Missouri DUI laws, the BAC (blood alcohol concentration) limit is 0.08%. If you are driving at this level or higher, a DWI charge will be issued whether or not there is any other evidence against you. If BAC levels are 0.15% or higher, you would be charged with an aggravated DWI. Missouri also follows a “zero tolerance law” for those who are under 21. Underage drivers with a BAC of even lower 0.02% can be convicted of a DWI.
What Happens If I get Pulled Over?
If you are pulled over and an officer believes you may be under the influence of alcohol, he may ask you to submit to a blood, breath, or urine alcohol test. Missouri DUI laws follow “implied consent”. This means the officer can require you to take up to 2 of these tests; they must be taken as soon as possible. You may ask to speak to an attorney, and you will have 20 minutes to do so. After the 20 minutes is up, whether or not you have gotten a hold of an attorney, you will be required to comply with the test.
Can I Refuse the BAC Test?
“Implied consent” requires that you comply with a BAC test. If you refuse, there will be consequences which are listed in the next section. The only time a driver would be forced to comply is if the driver is involved in an accident that has caused a major injury or death. According to Missouri DUI laws, an officer can administer the BAC to the driver, even if they are unconscious.
What Happens If I Refuse It?
If you do refuse the BAC test, the officer will inform you that your refusal will be used as evidence against you in court. You may still face conviction if you refuse the BAC test. Upon refusal, your license will be immediately taken. If this is your first refusal, you will be issued a 15-day temporary driving permit and given information on how to challenge the following penalties: a 1-year license revocation and paying for/completing a substance abuse traffic offender program.
If this is a second or third offense of refusing a BAC test, you will have your license revoked for 1 year. You will also have an ignition interlock device installed on your car for 6 months following. Paying for and attending the substance abuse traffic offender program will be mandatory. You may still be charged with and convicted of a DWI.
Can I Plead “Wet Reckless”
Pleading “wet reckless” means you’re bargaining for a lesser charge down from a DWI. Missouri DUI laws don’t technically have charges for reckless driving; however, they do have charges for “careless and imprudent driving”. Pleading “careless and imprudent driving” is a possibility; this charge is less severe than a DWI and is considered a “Class B” misdemeanor.
What Are the Penalties I Should Expect?
In regards to Missouri DUI laws, sentencing is complicated and will differ between jurisdictions. The court will take into consideration any factors involved in the incident such as any damage that may have occurred. They may also give credit for behavior while in custody or offer a work program as an alternative to jail time. It should be noted that if your blood alcohol level is under 0.08%, you may still be convicted of a DWI.
First Offense DUI
If this is your first offense, you will most likely receive a “Class B” misdemeanor, as long as there was no one injured and no one under 17 in the vehicle during the incident. A misdemeanor is not as severe as a felony. It may eventually be expunged off your record after a certain amount of time. Penalties may include up to 6 months in jail, a 30-day license suspension, fines up to $1,000, and possibly other penalties.
If a minor is in the vehicle at the time of arrest, the charge will be a “Class A” misdemeanor (which can result in 1 year in jail and up to $2,000 in fines). If an injury occurred as a result of the DWI, a “Class E” felony may be added to the charges. Penalties could include up to 4 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
Second offense DUI
As a “prior offender”, a second offense is considered a “Class A” misdemeanor. This would only occur if you were convicted of a DWI incident within the past 5 years. Penalties may include up to 1 year in jail, your license being revoked for up to a year, and $2,000 in fines. Again, if an injury occurs as a result, a felony would be added to the charges.
Third Offense DUI
As a “persistent offender”, a third offense is considered a “Class E” felony. Penalties could include up to 4 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
Fourth Offense DUI
As a “chronic offender”, a fourth offense is considered a “Class D” felony. Penalties could include up to 7 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. Also considere “Class D” felonies are “aggravated offenders” or those with a BAC level 0.15% or higher (whether it’s your first or fourth offense).
While facing a DWI charge can seem frightening, it’s beneficial to know the ins and outs of Missouri DUI laws, what the charges are, and what your possible penalties might be.
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