Governor Nixon is expected to sign new legislation, HB 1694, which sharpens the teeth in Missouri’s DWI laws. The bill has multiple provisions:
- Creates DWI court combining judicial supervision, drug testing, continuous alcohol monitoring, substance abuse traffic offender program compliance, and treatment of DWI court participants.
- Minimum jail sentences are now mandated for first offenders whose blood alcohol content is above .15% unless they go through a DWI court. (minimum of 48 hours jail for being over .15% and 5 days jail for over .20%).
- Minimum punishments for prior offenders are more than doubled unless the offender can attend DWI court. A serious question still remains about the availability of DWI courts because the bill provides no funding.
- Search warrant procedures are simplified to allow everyday use of warrants to compel blood testing for suspected offenders.
- The bill adds reporting requirements on all Missouri courts, but makes no provision for funding. The bill also singles out municipal judges for additional training, reporting and monitoring by the circuit court. There seems a resolve to make those local judges toe the line.
- Two provisions were (deservedly) dropped from the legislation:
1) One provision would have allowed police to take a blood sample from suspected drunk drivers and later apply for a warrant.
2) The other dropped provision would have eliminated the section that currently allows a person with a single DWI offense to have the record expunged after ten years had passed.
One hopes that despite a complete lack of funding, the severity of the new law can be offset by incorporation of the DWI courts into the existing drug court structures.