Driving While Intoxication (Under the Influence)

Legal Limits

In Missouri, a driver over the age of 21 whose blood-alcohol content is 0.08 percent or higher may be charged with drunken driving, as may a driver under the age of 21 who is found to have a BAC of 0.02 percent or greater. A driver who refuses to take a breath, blood or urine test may still be charged with DWI, driving under the influence (a.k.a. DUI) or other alcohol-related offenses.

Two separate cases arise from drunken driving charges and arrests: an administrative case that deals with the issue of whether the driver will lose his or her license and a criminal proceeding that involves charges of DWI or related offenses.

Administrative Proceeding

Generally the license of a driver whose BAC is over the legal limit or who refuses to take a breath, blood or urine test may be revoked or suspended beginning 15 days after the arrest unless a hearing is requested. Because of the small window of time in which a driver shall request a hearing and contest the suspension or revocation, it is important to obtain representation quickly after an arrest.

The duration of a suspension or revocation varies:

  • First-time failure: A driver whose BAC is above the legal limit for the first time during a five-year period will have his or her license suspended for 30 days. Before the expiration of the 30 days, a driver with proof of insurance may obtain a 60-day restricted driving permit, also known as a hardship license, which allows him or her to drive to work, to school or to a treatment program.
  • Two or more failures: A driver whose BAC is above the legal limit for the second time or more during a five-year period will have his or her license suspended for one year and is not eligible for a hardship license.
  • First-time refusal to test: The license privileges of a driver who refuses to submit to a blood, urine or breath test are suspended for one year, but a first-time offender may apply for a hardship license after 90 days.
  • Two or more refusals: The driver’s license is suspended for one year, and the driver is ineligible for a hardship license.

Criminal Proceeding

As in the administrative process, an individual who has been charged by the state of Missouri with DWI faces a variety of penalties that vary with the individual’s offense history.

  • First offense: This is a class B misdemeanor, punishable by a six-month jail sentence, a maximum fine of $500 plus court costs, a 30-day suspension of driving privileges, and a 60-day restricted license period. The court may also order an ignition-interlock device and completion of the Substance Abuse Traffic Offender Program, better known as SATOP.
  • Second offense: This is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a jail sentence of as long as one year, a maximum fine of $1,000 plus court costs and a five-year revocation of driving privileges. A driver is not eligible to apply for a hardship license until two years of the revocation period have been completed. The court may also order an ignition-interlock device, treatment programs or attendance at meetings of an alcohol-recovery program.
  • Three or more offenses: A driver with three or more convictions within a 10-year period is deemed a persistent offender and is considered to have committed a class D felony, punishable by as much as five years in prison, a maximum fine of $5,000 plus court costs and a 10-year revocation of driving privileges. If the DWI is a third offense but is not a felony, a hardship license may be applied for after three years of the revocation period have been completed.

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