Missouri (DWI) Driving While Intoxicated Laws, Fines & Penalties Explained

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The state of Missouri defines driving while intoxicated (DWI) as driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or above, according to Revised Statutes of Missouri Section 577.012. A DWI is the same as a DUI (driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol), OWI (operating while intoxicated) or OUI (operating under the influence) in other states. Penalties for a Missouri DWI include incarceration, a fine, driver’s license suspension or revocation, installation of ignition interlock device (IID), attendance at a Victim Impact Panel and completion of a substance abuse education program.

First Missouri DWI

A first offense DWI in Missouri is punishable by up to six months in jail, a fine up to $1,000, 30 days' driver’s license suspension followed by 60 days on a restricted driver’s license, installation of an IID as a condition of getting a restricted license, attendance at a Victim Impact Panel and completion of a substance abuse education program, according to Revised Statutes of Missouri Sections 302.525 and 577.012. An individual may be eligible for an immediate restricted driving privilege (RDP) if they install an IID. A first offender may be eligible to participate in a prosecution diversion program that lasts between six months and two years, according to Revised Statutes of Missouri Section 557.014.

Second Missouri DWI

A second DWI offense in Missouri is punishable by up to one year in jail, a fine up to $2,000, a one-year driver’s license revocation, six months' minimum IID installation, attendance at a Victim Impact Panel and completion of a substance abuse education program. If the individual commits two DWIs within a five-year period, they will suffer a five-year driver’s license revocation, according to the Missouri Department of Revenue. An individual who has committed two DWIs within a five-year period is not eligible for probation until they have served at least 10 days of incarceration. The exception to the 10-day rule is that, as an alternative to jail time, the individual performs at least 30 days of community service.

Third Missouri DWI

A third DWI offense in Missouri is punishable by up to four years in jail, a fine up to $10,000, 10 years' driver’s license revocation, six months' minimum IID installation, attendance of a Victim Impact Panel and completion of a substance abuse education program. A third-time offender is ineligible for probation unless they have served 30 days of incarceration. The exception to the 30-day rule is that as an alternative to a jail sentence, the individual performs at least 60 days of community service.

Suspended Sentences for DWI

An individual is ineligible to be granted a suspended term of incarceration if their BAC was between 0.15 and 0.20 percent, according to Revised Statutes of Missouri Section 557.012. An individual with a BAC in this range must serve a jail term of at least two days. An individual with a BAC of 0.20 percent or above is also ineligible for a suspended sentence; they must serve a jail term of at least five days. An individual who has committed more than one DWI within five years or more than two DWIs is ineligible for a suspended sentence.

Legal Limit for Drivers Under 21

An individual under the age of 21 cannot drive with a BAC of 0.02 percent or above. They may have their driver’s license suspended for 90 days for a first underage DWI and for one year for a second underage DWI. A driver under 21 with a BAC of 0.08 percent or above can be charged with a standard DWI.

Chemical Test Refusal

An individual who refuses to submit to a chemical or breath test will suffer a one-year driver’s license revocation. A refusal to submit to a chemical test when requested by an arresting officer is considered an intoxication-related law enforcement contact. An individual whose driving record shows more than one intoxication-related law enforcement contact within a five-year period is required to install an IID on their vehicle. They must maintain the IID for six months from their driver’s license reinstatement date and will be monitored during the last three months of the six-month period, according to the Missouri Department of Revenue's Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Refusal to Submit to an Alcohol or Drug Test.

Prior Drunk Driving Offenses

Missouri uses the terms prior, persistent, aggravated, chronic and habitual to indicate how many times an individual has committed an offense like a DWI, according to Revised Statutes of Missouri Section 577.001.

  • Prior offender: an individual who has been found guilty of one intoxication-related traffic offense, where the prior offense occurred within five years of the occurrence of the current intoxication-related traffic offense.
  • Persistent offender: an individual who has been found guilty of two or more intoxicated-related traffic offenses committed on separate occasions.
  • Aggravated offender: an individual who has been found guilty of three or more intoxication-related traffic offenses on separate occasions.
  • Chronic offender: an individual who has been found guilty of four or more intoxication-related traffic offenses committed on separate occasions.
  • Habitual offender: an individual who has been found guilty of five or more intoxication-related traffic offenses committed on separate occasions.

Severity of DWI Offense

A standard adult DWI is a Class B misdemeanor, according to Revised Statutes of Missouri Section 577.010. A Class B misdemeanor is the second most serious type of misdemeanor, according to Revised Statutes of Missouri Section 557.021. The period of incarceration for a Class B misdemeanor ranges between 31 days and six months.

A DWI becomes a Class A misdemeanor, the most serious type of misdemeanor, if the defendant is a prior offender or if there was a passenger under 17 in the vehicle. A Class A misdemeanor is punishable by more than six months in jail. A DWI is a Class E felony, the least serious type of felony, if the defendant is a persistent offender or committed two or more DWIs within the last five years. A Class E felony is punishable by up to four years of imprisonment.

Restricted Driving Privilege (RDP)

A restricted driving privilege is available only for first-time offenders. It is not available to an individual who has had a prior alcohol-related offense in the past five years. In order to be eligible for an RDP, an individual must not have their license suspended or revoked for any other reason.

The two types of RDP available are an immediate 90-day RDP with an IID and a 30-day suspension, followed by a 60-day RDP. The immediate 90-day interlock RDP allows the individual to drive for purposes of work, school, medical treatment, religious services, child care, court-ordered visitation and custodial obligations, and fueling and grocery requirements. The 60-day RDP allows the individual to drive for purposes of work, school, alcohol treatment and ignition interlock provider.

Limited Driving Privilege (LDP)

An individual’s driver’s license is revoked if they commit more than one DWI in a five-year period. An individual with more than one DWI within five years is only eligible for a limited driving privilege (LDP), also called a hardship license. An individual is ineligible for an LDP if they have been convicted of a felony involving a motor vehicle in the last five years.

An individual seeking an LDP who is under a five-year or ten-year denial of driving privileges must install an ignition interlock device (IID) equipped with a camera. The court may also require the IID to be equipped with a GPS. If the individual is not under a five- or ten-year denial period, the camera and GPS features are not required unless the court orders them.

Missouri DWI and Drug Courts

Missouri has drug and DWI courts set up throughout the state. Typically, these courts are for individuals who had a BAC of 0.15 percent during a DWI or who have committed two or more DWIs. The drug and DWI treatment court program involves receiving substance abuse treatment, drug and alcohol testing, and complying with a substance abuse traffic offender program.

One of the advantages of participating in DWI court is gaining limited driving privileges through the program. An individual can gain limited driving privileges by participating in DWI court even if they have committed more than one alcohol-related offense on their record, according to Missouri Department of Revenue - Strengthening Missouri’s DWI Laws. The individual will need to install an IID on their vehicle if they have more than one alcohol-related enforcement contact.

An individual may be eligible for a suspended sentence, also called suspended imposition of sentence, or SIS, if they are placed on probation for two years and complete the DWI court program. The length of a DWI court usually runs between one and two years.

Expungement of DWI Record

An individual is prohibited from having a first alcohol-related driving offense expunged from their record if they have a second or subsequent alcohol-related contact on record or an alcohol-related action pending. This means an individual with two or more DWIs who participates in DWI court is ineligible to have the first DWI expunged. The court considers an offense for which the individual is being treated in DWI court as an action pending.

Missouri's Look-back Period Is Five Years

Missouri’s look-back period for a DWI is five years. Missouri will count an out-of-state conviction for a DUI, OWI, OUI, or DWI as a prior DWI if the event occurred within five years of the current charge. The defendant must have been convicted under a law that is substantially similar to Missouri’s DWI law.

Control of a Vehicle in Missouri

Missouri law construes alcohol-related incidents strictly, according to Revised Statutes of Missouri Section 302.505. For example, a driver is deemed to be in control of a vehicle when they are behind the wheel and turn on the ignition of a vehicle parked in a driveway. A driver is also deemed to be operating a vehicle when they are sitting in the driver’s seat of the vehicle, either asleep or unconscious, with the key in the ignition and the engine running.

Careless and Imprudent Driving in Missouri

Missouri does not have a reckless driving statute. Its law regarding the standard of care with which a driver should operate a vehicle can be found in Revised Statutes of Missouri Section 304.012. In some cases, it may be possible to request a plea offer that involves pleading guilty to a violation of “careless and imprudent driving” rather than to a DWI charge. Careless and imprudent driving is also a Class B misdemeanor, but carries fewer lasting consequences than a DWI conviction.