Missouri DWI Laws 2018

Missouri’s Driving While Intoxicated & Driving Under Influence (DWI & DUI) laws are strict and if you break these laws you are likely to face hefty penalties that can see you serving time, having your license revoked or suspended, and incurring massive fines. DWI offenses include driving with excessive BAC (blood alcohol content), driving while intoxicated or driving while under the influence of drugs (including prescription drugs). Lawmakers in Missouri spent a considerable amount of time overhauling the state’s criminal code in order to modify the state’s sentencing laws. They aim to change the classification structure for some felonies and misdemeanors which could see larger penalties for DWI offenders. The Senate and the House of Representatives signed off on the bill which was approved by Governor Jay Nixon and came into effect as of January 2017.

DWI vs DUI in Missouri

One has also heard the term DUI (driving under the influence) used in regard to this offense but in Missouri, the accepted term is DWI where you will be found guilty if you “operate a motor vehicle while in an intoxicated or drugged condition.” If your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is .08 while operating a motor vehicle or 0.02 if you are under 21 years of age, you will be found guilty of a Missouri DWI. It also applies if you are under the influence of drugs, or a combination of alcohol and drugs while operating a motor vehicle. For individuals with prior DWI convictions or a criminal history of any kind, the penalties imposed on the driver can be severe.

The Two Key Sections of the Missouri DWI Law

There are two separate sections of the Missouri DWI law that govern the arrest. Essentially a DWI is two cases: first, your criminal charges of driving while intoxicated and second the civil side of the case with the Missouri Department of Revenue regarding what consequences you are facing against your driver’s license. The administrative/civil law comes into play if you refuse the BAC tests or your BAC was over the legal limit. In both cases without legal assistance, you will be looking at automatic license suspension or revocation once your 15-day driving permit (issued to you with the rest of the tickets you receive) expires. The ticket by the arresting officer includes an AIR (Alcohol Influence Report) form, a Missouri Uniform Complaint, and Summons, or warrant, a Notice of Suspension/Revocation of Driving Privilege (Form 2385) and your Missouri driver license and notification of the Missouri Implied Consent.

Get Legal Advice During Your 15-Day Grace Period

If you are arrested for a DWI and you choose to take the breath-test resulting in a BAC that is over .08 and it is a first-time DWI arrest, your license will automatically be suspended for 90-days unless you hire a lawyer and file for an Administrative Review. You have a 15-day grace period before you have to stop driving, starting from the day of the arrest. However, penalties can be higher depending on your Missouri driving record for the past five years. Those with past DWI’s can see more severe penalties. You do have recourse to petition the court to receive a restricted license in the event of your license being revoked or suspended. You only have 15 days to contest a suspension or get a restricted driving privilege (RDP). This countdown clock starts ticking the minute the officer issues a Revocation of Driving Privilege Form 2385 or the Notice of Suspension. It is vital at this time to get the best legal advice available to assist you with your dilemma.

Changes to Missouri DWI Laws

If you were arrested and charged with a DWI in 2018 you need to keep updated with how the latest changes in these laws could impact the outcome of your case. The DWI has to be categorized and if you have any prior DWI’s on record it is going to complicate your case. If this is your first DWI offense in Missouri and no-one was injured during the incident and you were not under the age of 17 at the time of arrest, it is likely that it will be categorized as a “Class B” misdemeanor. Underage DWI offenses are categorized as “Class A” misdemeanors. Both Class A and Class B misdemeanors are less problematic than felonies with the opportunity for these to be expunged from your criminal record after a number of years.
The new bill also expands on the current definition of boating while intoxicated and will apply to all waterways in Missouri. Essentially habitual offenders will ultimately experience more severe penalties. This bill created a new misdemeanor class (Class D) and a new felony class (Class E).  Unfortunately, this is bad news for some people. Christopher Combs, a leading DWI defense attorney in St. Louis says “I’ve seen a lot of people in the last year or so shocked that a third time DUI is no longer an A Misdemeanor but a new classification of an E felony. A young man or woman who received a DWI in high school and then one in college, is most likely looking at an E felony if they find themselves charged with a third DWI. However, if handled properly there are multiple avenues that can be taken to avoid the felony conviction on your record and even have the charge reduced to a misdemeanor.”

Misdemeanor and Felony penalties

  • If you are arrested for a Class B misdemeanor it carries the possibility of a 6-month jail sentence. It can include a 30-day license suspension as well as fines of up to $1,000.00. Other penalties can be included based on the severity of the incident in question.When arrested for a Class A misdemeanor you have to be prepared to face up to one year of jail time. Your license will be revoked for a year and you will have to pay at least upwards of $2,000 and/or additional penalties depending on the circumstances of the offense.
  • The new Missouri DWI law also indicates that if a person is injured due to your driving while intoxicated you will be charged with a Class E Felony which is a completely new class of felonies attached to this offense.
  • If this is your second Missouri DWI within the last five years you are considered a prior offender, and will most likely face a Class A misdemeanor charge with a possible 5-year license denial.
  • If this is your third (or more) DWI conviction you will receive a 10-year license denial.
  • In the case of getting a conviction while operating a commercial vehicle with a  BAC of 0.4 percent (or higher), 2 points will be instantly assessed to your Missouri driver record. You will also not be allowed to drive a commercial motor vehicle for one year.
  • Extra jail time or charges will be included if any harm was done to a person or property or if your DWI offense caused a car accident.
  • A Class C felony used to state a prison sentence of no more than seven years but that has changed to a term of 3 – 10 years. A Class D felony prison term has been increased from 4 -7 years.
  • The new bill does modify Missouri’s DWI ignition interlock law where devices will no longer need to be equipped with GPS.
  • Under the new law, first-time possession of marijuana convictions in cases involving 10 grams or less of the substance will be classified as a Class D misdemeanor instead of a Class A misdemeanor. They will have to pay a fine but will serve no jail time.

DWI Checkpoints Cancelled in Missouri

In 2017 the new Missouri legislation law passed on May 4, 2017 prohibits the use of state money to fund sobriety checkpoints. They have subsequently been defunded and canceled. The focus has turned to “saturation patrols” where police departments use their officers to target drunk drivers. There was major opposition to this legislative process by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

“We still are losing about 10,000 innocent lives annually to impaired drivers, and that’s with sobriety check points in full force right now, and if we cut funding in Missouri and don’t have sobriety check points, I’m afraid the death toll will rise.” MADD volunteer Leann Lewis

You Can Face a Conviction If You Are “Sleeping it Off”

Here is one law that is essential to know in Missouri as it could get you arrested even when you think you are being responsible and choosing to not drive while under the influence…

Before 1996, the Missouri DWI statute stated that “operating” a vehicle constituted “physically driving, operating, or being in actual physical control of a motor vehicle.” However, the interpretation of that statute saw many drunken motorists, who were just sitting or even sleeping inside their cars with the motor running, convicted of a DWI. It was deemed that they were in “physical control” of their vehicles and so could be arrested. After 1996, there was an amendment to the statute to decriminalize the situation where someone was trying to “sleep it off” when they realized they were too intoxicated to drive home. But in various cases in the Missouri Supreme court, this amendment was ignored and the “running engine rule” showed that once the driver’s key was in the ignition the officers had probable cause to believe that the drunken driver was operating the vehicle. (State v. Wiles in 2000’ and Cox v. Director of Revenue in 2003).

If You Drive on Public Highways You Have Given Consent for Chemical Tests

Under Missouri law if you operate a motor vehicle on the public highways of the state you have given your consent to have your breath, blood, saliva or urine tested, using up to two samples, to ascertain the alcohol or drug content of your blood. The arresting officer will inform you if you are being arrested for a DWI or BAC, what each of the tests (both chemical and sobriety tests) entails and what penalties you will face if you refuse the test (automatic loss of your driver’s license for one year). This is where a “breathalyzer” test is usually administered.

Missouri DWI Expungement

Expungement can be granted for first-time alcohol-related offenses under Missouri law:

“After a period of not less than ten years, an individual who has pleaded guilty or has been convicted for a first alcohol-related driving offense which is a misdemeanor or a county or city ordinance violation and which is not a conviction for driving a commercial motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and who since such date has not been convicted of any other alcohol-related driving offense may apply to the court in which he or she pled guilty or was sentenced for an order to expunge from all official records all recordations of his or her arrest, plea, trial or conviction.  If the court determines, after hearing, that such person has not been convicted of any subsequent alcohol-related driving offense, has no other subsequent alcohol-related enforcement contacts as defined in section 302.525, RSMo, and has no other alcohol-related driving charges or alcohol-related enforcement actions pending at the time of the hearing on the application, the court shall enter an order of expungement.”

There have been recent changes to expungement laws that can help you clear your criminal record. We can help you to see whether you qualify for an expungement of a previous conviction.

How We Can Assist You

A Missouri DWI arrest could be the start of a long journey as it could take months before charges are laid. The DWI statute of limitation for the filing of a charge is one year according to Missouri law, specifically section 556.036 with felony crimes having a three-year deadline. You should therefore immediately start building your defense with the help of an attorney well versed in the Missouri DWI laws. So if you or a friend has recently been charged with a DWI in and around the St. Louis metro area, Combs Law Group can help you fight the charges.  Give us a call so we can talk you through the process ahead and assist you with your legal defense. We’re here and we’re listening.

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About Chris Combs

A St. Louis native and graduate of Saint Louis University Law School, Chris Combs has been recognized as one of St. Louis' top criminal defense and personal injury attorneys. He is passionate about getting positive results for all his clients and values personal communication above all.

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