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DWI in Missouri

What is a DWI in Missouri?

Under MO Rev Stat § 577.010, driving while intoxicated (DWI) means operating a vehicle under the influence of any stimulating element, including alcohol, controlled substance, a drug, or any combination thereof. Missouri recognizes such driving conduct, which poses a threat to public safety as a criminal offense. Usually, law enforcement authorities have to establish a blood alcohol content to a specified level before making arrests for DWI. Missouri Courts may also charge a motorist for a DWI offense in Missouri if the party is perceived to be under the influence of any intoxicating substance at all. Where a motorist is convicted of a DUI, the offense may be entered into their Missouri criminal record depending on the severity of the crime and its consequent penalties.

What is the Difference Between a DUI and a DWI in Missouri?

DWI (driving while intoxicated) and DUI (driving under the influence) offenses both involve operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating substances. However, the fundamental difference between the two traffic violations is that for a DUI misconduct, the intoxicating substance is specifically alcohol and the quantifiable blood alcohol content of the vehicle operator. This is in contrast to a DWI offense which encompasses any form of intoxicant.

Missouri DWI Laws

The Missouri DWI laws are a series of legal guidelines that outline the responsibilities of vehicle operators to public safety and the penalties for those who pose dangers to the state’s residents. The laws indicate behaviors that may lead to DWI charges, including:

The drunk driving laws also cover chemical testing to establish intoxication or determine blood alcohol content. That said, the implied consent law states the non-requirement of consent from a motorist before conducting a chemical test. Hence, a police officer may test a suspect if the party is willing or not.

Furthermore, the Missouri Department of Revenue (MDR) is the administrative agency in charge of suspending, revoking, and reinstating the licenses of individuals convicted of DWI offenses. This agency also issues out special privilege permits to DWI violators with suspended licenses.

DWI Penalties in Missouri

There are different types of punishments for persons who commit the offense of driving while intoxicated. However, each penalty may be extended to varying degrees based on factors such as the offender’s record and injury to other parties while committing the offense. Upon conviction for a DWI violation, the court may impose one or more of the following sentences:

Imprisonment: Under the court’s order, a DWI offender may be a detainee for a specific duration of time in a holding facility such as a jail or a prison.

Fines: The perpetrator may have to pay a specific sum of money depending on the frequency of the offense and the severity.

License Revocation: The Missouri Department of Revenue may take away the offender’s right to drive. The party may be unable to operate a vehicle until a new certification restores the individual’s right.

License Suspension: A DWI offender may not be able to drive legally for a duration of time or operate a vehicle for certain specific purposes upon a license suspension.

Community Service: A convicted DWI violator may have to complete certain work hours in the community without pay and under supervision.

Enrolment in Counseling Programs: A DWI defendant may attend a mandatory counseling program. The offender must complete the program to the satisfaction of the person in charge.

Probation: This is an alternative penalty to imprisonment. The convicted DWI violator may move about freely but under the supervision of a designated official who may constantly take assessments on the offender and ensure that the person does not commit any further offenses.

Continuous Alcohol Testing: If the offender is not subjected to imprisonment, the individual may take several random blood alcohol concentration tests daily. A failure of any of these tests could lead to further punitive measures.

Installation of an Ignition Interlock Device: By the court or administrative order, a DUI violator may have to install an ignition interlock device in the vehicle for a specific length of time. The ignition interlock device is a piece of testing equipment connected to a car's ignition system, which the driver has to breathe into to perform an alcohol breath content test. If the driver has any alcohol on their breath, the vehicle may not start.

What Happens When You Get a DWI in Missouri?

If a motorist is suspected to be intoxicated, an officer of the law arrests the person. After the arrest, the offender takes a chemical test which the driver may choose to refuse. Once the officer establishes the presence of intoxication, the motorist gets a DWI charge, and prosecution may follow.

In Missouri, a first-time DWI is a class B misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in prison and a fine of $1,000. If the offender does not get a prison sentence, the violator may be on probation for a minimum of two years. The defendant also faces a 90-day license suspension, although the state may issue a special license during this time which allows the operation of a vehicle to places such as work or school.

What Happens When You Get a DWI for the First Time in Missouri?

The penalties for a first-time DWI might become more severe if certain aggravating factors were present when committing the offense. For instance:

  • If a person younger than 17 was inside the vehicle while the motorist was intoxicated, the offense becomes a class A misdemeanor. The punishment for a class A misdemeanor is up to one-year imprisonment and a fine of $2,000.
  • If another party was harmed during the DWI violation, the offense becomes a class E felony. A class E felony attracts up to four years imprisonment.
  • If an offender injures a law enforcement officer or emergency personnel during the impairment or another person sustains a severe injury, the violation is a class D felony. The corresponding punishment is seven years of incarceration.
  • If a police officer or emergency personnel was seriously injured during the commission of the DWI offense, or if a member of the public died, the DWI misconduct becomes a class C felony. The penalty is at least three years and up to ten years jail time.
  • The infringement turns to a class B felony if a law enforcement officer or emergency personnel dies during the violation or if the DWI act killed two or more members of the public. A class B felony attracts at least five years and up to fifteen years confinement in prison.

Nevertheless, if any of these aggravating situations are not in place, the offender faces six months of jail time and a fine of $1,000.

What is the Penalty for a Second DWI in Missouri?

Within five years after the first conviction, any person who commits a driving while intoxicated (DWI) offense is guilty of a second DWI, and the violator is termed a prior offender. A second DWI is a class A misdemeanor, and the consequences include one-year imprisonment and a fine of up to $2,000. A conviction as a prior offender also results in a five-year license suspension. The offender must serve at least five days in prison even if the court changes the rest of the sentence to probation.

What Happens After a Third DWI in Missouri?

A motorist convicted of a third DWI is a persistent offender, and the individual faces more severe punishments. A third DWI is a class E felony, and a guilty party must serve at least thirty days in prison even if the rest of the sentence turns to probation. The offender may also be subject to license suspension for ten years.

How Long Does a DWI Stay on Your Record in Missouri?

A DWI offense stays on the offender’s record for five years and serves as the reference for subsequent offenses. However, a DWI violation after five years is regarded as a new offense. A first-time DWI record is expugnable after certain years, as far as the offender does not have any other DUI conviction within this period. Expungement of DWI offenses is only once in a lifetime.

DWI Expungement in Missouri

After ten years, a (DWI) conviction is expugnable from a Missouri driver’s record. According to MO Rev Stat § 610.130, this opportunity is only open to eligible first-time offenders. A successfully expunged DWI record removes the conviction from the driver’s criminal record. Notably, both the adjudicating court and the Department of Revenue keep records of DWI violations. Therefore, an interested person may have to move to expunge the files in the two offices. A commercial vehicle driver is not eligible for a DWI expungement, likewise a person with a felony charge and a repeat offender. The following are the eligibility requirements for a DWI expungement in Missouri:

  • A minimum of ten years has passed since the DWI conviction.
  • Concerned parties must apply to the court of conviction. Application for expungement costs $250, but the judge could waive it if the driver is poor or needy.
  • There must be no other alcohol or intoxication offenses or convictions during the ten years of waiting.
  • The driver must not have had a prior expungement.
  • The Director of Revenue must be named in the petition to expunge

If the judge grants the petition, the DWI convict must prove in the hearing that there has been no further contact with the police relating to driving under the influence. Interested persons must note that expunction in Missouri does not involve total deletion of the DWI off the records. Instead, it restricts all information pertaining to that particular offense, and it may be inaccessible for background checks. A person who got an expungement may not disclose the DWI offense unless a future employer by law must not hire people with certain records, or those filing for a license or professional practice permit, and other circumstances under MO Rev Stat § 610.140.

How Likely is Jail Time After a First DWI in Missouri?

It is not very likely to get jail time for a first DWI in Missouri, although the likelihood increases based on the severity of the offense. Depending on other factors like injuries or death and blood alcohol concentration (BAC), a first DWI could result to:

  • A class B misdemeanor offense
  • A 90-day license suspension
  • Installation of an ignition interlocking device
  • A $500 fine
  • Up to 6 months in jail (although it is rare, even if the offender pleads guilty)

What is the Average Cost of DWI in Missouri?

The average cost of a DWI in Missouri could run into thousands of dollars based on the peculiarities of each case. For instance, a person guilty of driving while intoxicated may have to pay fines, legal fees and cover the cost of other aspects as required. However, the DWI violator may not pay these fees upfront as it could take up to 18 months to resolve a DWI in the state.

Typically, if a law enforcement officer arrests a party for a DWI offense, payment of fine is one of the constant punishments for the misconduct. Therefore, the fine may vary according to the number of times the court proves the offender guilty of committing a DWI violation. However, offenders usually pay between $1,000 to $10,000.

The court may also order the installation of ignition interlock devices (IID) for offenders. And this comes with an initial installation fee between $70 to $150 and leasing and calibration costs in the range of $40 to $100 monthly till the court lifts the order. Second and third time DWI convicts install this device for a minimum of six months, hence bearing more costs.

For a first DWI, it is possible that the driver stays on probation for two years and takes part in alcohol/drug testing. Alcohol or drug testing occurs randomly, and it may cost at least $60 per month. Offenders who have to attend the Substance Abuse Traffic Offender’s Program (SATOP) must bear the program’s cost. However, SATOP comes in levels and costs between $200 and $1,067. DWI violator who must be present at the Victims Impact Panel (A VIP program) pays $75.

Other fees include driving improvement programs, alcohol rehabilitation, increased auto insurance premiums, and legal fees. On the cheaper side, the cost of a legal representative ranges between $700 and $1500 on average. Additionally, there are court costs from $100 upwards, Continuous Alcohol Monitoring (CAM) bracelet, which goes for $11 daily, impound and towing charges between $100 to $1,000, and license reinstatement fee.

In total, a DWI averagely costs between $5,000 and $7,500 and higher for repeat offenders. This is excluding the cost of seeking alternative transportation due to license suspension or revocation.

How Much is Bail for a DWI in Missouri?

The judge determines the bail amount for each DWI case in Missouri. A first-time offender may likely get a lower charge compared to a repeat offender. However, a felony bail amount could be five to ten times more than a misdemeanor bail cost.

The lowest bail amount in Missouri is $2,500 for a first DWI, and it could increase based on circumstances around the case. A bail bond may cost about $10,000 for a second DWI offense and $100,000 for repeat DWI violations and felony charges resulting in death.

How to Get My License Back After a DWI in Missouri?

Some of the reasons drivers lose their driving licenses include alcohol-related accidents, failure to appear in courts, neglecting traffic ticket payments, and getting several toll violations on driving records. Fortunately, the Missouri Department of Revenue provides a method to reinstate a Missouri driver’s license. To redeem a driver’s license, an interested individual must obtain the driving record from the Driver License Bureau (DLB) by calling (573) 526-2407.

However, the basic fee for procuring a Missouri driver’s record is $2.82, while additional fees may apply. The Missouri Department of Revenue offers copies of the current driving record at any of its license offices. Upon application, an applicant must also establish the reason for the license suspension or revocation. Usually, the Driver License Bureau sends a letter to a defaulter when the department revokes or suspends the party’s license. The letter states the reason for the action.

Offenders with two or more reasons may have to search the chart to see the form and the application payment. A petitioner must also file and maintain a proof of liability form (SR-22) form for at least two years from the date of revocation or suspension. However, a first-time offender and a DWI violator under 21 with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.02% or more may not complete and file the proof of liability insurance.

The reinstatement fee for this class of persons is $45. Adult offenders who lost their licenses due to refusal of drug or alcohol tests must first complete the Substance Awareness Traffic Offender Program (SATOP), file an SR-22 insurance form, and pay a $65 fee. A DUI violator with an ignition interlock must retake the driver exam before applying for reinstatement. Upon fulfilling all the requirements, offenders may reach out to the Missouri Department of Revenue in person via the address below:

Driver License Bureau
Truman State Office Building
301 West High Str, Room 470
Jefferson City, MO

Or via mail to:

Driver License Bureau
P.O. Box 200
Jefferson City, MO 65105-0200

How Does a DWI Affect Your Life in Missouri?

A driving while intoxicated (DWI) violation is a serious offense that carries long-term consequences. Depending on the severity, offenders may end up serving jail time and losing their licenses permanently. Generally, DWI violators are likely to pay a fee and/or serve probation for a while in lesser cases.

Furthermore, offending parties may suffer financial damages and reputation, increase in auto insurance rates, the loss of jobs requiring driving, or lose of commercial driver’s license (CDL). The military service can discharge, reassign or deny promotion to members guilty of DWI violations. Offenders are also likely to have difficulty finding a job due to their criminal history information. There may also be other repercussions such as dismissal from the college, losing a license, suspension, or a graduate or professional school scholarship denial.

Can You Get Fired for a DWI in Missouri?

Yes, DWI convictions in Missouri may result in a boss firing an offender. As a state with at-will employment, Missouri allows employers to lay off employees at any time and for any reason, provided the reasons are not illegal. The termination could also be for a DWI offense as most managers carry out background checks. While some DWI files may not be generally available to the public, some public and private agencies retain closed records for employers, including those who work in sensitive fields such as security, law enforcement, and caring assistant for children, seniors, and disabled adults.

How Do I Find DWI Checkpoints in Missouri?

It is legal for police officers to mount DWI checkpoints in Missouri. Most of these checkpoints are present on busy streets, where the law enforcement agents either stop every car moving through or use a pre-scripted method to stop cars randomly. However, interested persons may check online to locate DWI checkpoints. Police officers, under normal circumstances, need probable cause to pull someone over for testing before initiating a traffic stop. If not, the defendant may challenge the DWI charge.

Which Is Worse, DUI vs. DWI?

According to Missouri law, there is no actual or legal difference between DUI and DWI. Sometimes, the terms are used interchangeably within the state, and it is merely an example of people using different words to describe the same thing. However, DWI is the preferred term in Missouri law, as it stands for “driving while intoxicated”. Besides DWI, the state recognizes another category; DUID. DUID means “driving under the influence of drugs”. Suppose a person is under the influence of any drug, whether hemp or cold medicine, the party can get a DUID charge and receive the same punishment as a DWI offense.