A Summary of the Missouri Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) Process

Post date: Jun 5, 2012 5:49:22 PM

*Guest post by John G. Bowen (law student at the University of Illinois and summer law clerk)*

Being charged with drunk driving is a very serious legal matter. This post is intended to help shine a light on the convoluted legal process that results from a driver's lapse in judgment.

To start, it is worth noting that there are a few bits of information that can be beneficial to a driver who has been stopped under the suspicion of driving while intoxicated, or DWI as it is commonly known.

Missouri is an “implied consent” state, so if you refuse to take the alcohol/drug test when requested by a law enforcement officer (known as a “refusal”), your driver’s license will be revoked for one year. RSMo 577.020.

If you are requested to submit to any such test and you ask to speak to an attorney, you are allowed twenty minutes to attempt to contact one before making your decision. RSMo 577.041.

Assuming you choose to take the test and register at over a 0.08 BAC, two different legal processes come into play: (1) criminal and (2) administrative.

(1) Criminal Alcohol Law:

The first DWI offense is a class B misdemeanor, which can result in a prison sentence of up to 6 months and/or a fine of up to $500. A second DWI offense can carry a prison sentence of up to one year and a fine of up to $1,000, and is a class A misdemeanor. A third DWI offense is up to 4 years in jail and a fine of up to $5,000, and is a class D felony.

(2) Administrative Alcohol Law:

This law deals with the suspension of the driver’s license automatically. If you are arrested for driving with a BAC of .08 or higher (.02 for minors), you are subject to the administrative punishment imposed by the Missouri Department of Revenue. Under the administrative law, your license can still be suspended even if the ticket was disposed of in court or reduced to a lesser charge.

Your first administrative action results in a 30-day suspension of your license, followed by a 60-day restricted driving privilege (you may be allowed to drive to work and other important places). The second administrative action results in a one-year revocation, and if it is less than five years after your first suspension, then your license can be denied for five years. If you get a third suspension, your license can be denied for ten years.

Once notified of the pending suspension, the driver has only 15 days to appeal the administrative portion of the punishment. If you do not appeal the suspension, it automatically takes place 15 days after the arrest. This is final. If you file an appeal, but the suspension is upheld, your driving privileges will be suspended 15 days after the final decision is mailed by the Department of Revenue. This decision may be reviewed by the circuit court upon petition by the driver, but the suspension is still imposed while the review is pending.

In order to get your license back after the 90-day period, the driver must fulfill the reinstatement requirements. These requirements typically include completion of a Substance Abuse Traffic Offender Program (SATOP), paying the license reinstatement fee to the DOR, and proof of SR-22 insurance. If you have more than one alcohol-related traffic offense on your record, you must show proof that you installed an ignition interlock device — essentially, a breathalyzer in your car that you must take in order to start your vehicle. If your license was revoked for one year or longer, you will need to pass the driver examination again.

For more information about the administrative aspects of the DWI process, visit the Missouri Department of Revenue WEBSITE.

**As you can see, the DWI process can become very confusing. If you are considering hiring an attorney to represent you for a DWI or any other matter, please contact the Law Office of Calan T. McConkey LLC for a free consultation at 816.476.6400, or by using the "Contact Us" form on this site.**