Missouri legislature cracks down on DWI offenders.

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.

Jefferson City Criminal attorney

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.


New DWI laws could have “unintended consequences”

After the governor’s November DWI summit, we can expect new laws that promise to crack down on repeat DWI offenders. Oddly, the news reports seem to suggest a need–not for a crackdown on drunk drivers–but rather a crackdown on courts and prosecutors.

One of the biggest problems cited relates to the many arrested drivers who refuse to give a breath sample to determine their blood alcohol content. The law already requires a one year license revocation for such a refusal, but apparently prosecutors are being blamed for allowing DWI offenders to keep their licenses in exchange for guilty pleas on the underlying criminal offense.

Reports also cite prosecutors and judges giving probation to DWI offenders, thereby avoiding any conviction from appearing on a person’s record. This seemingly ignores recommendations of the federal goverment not to permit such practices.

Changes in the law may make it a crime to refuse to give a breath sample. Other changes could prevent prosecutors from plea deals which would keep a DWI from appearing in state and national databases. Another possible change is to make it a more serious crime to drive with a blood alcohol higher than .15% (the current level is .08%).

It turns out that some prosecutors are not enthusiastic about changing the law, citing unintended consequences of the new laws.

Prosecutors know that if their hands are tied by uncompromising rules, it will change the way they do business. This is because criminal cases do not always appear in black and white. Shades of grey are the norm.

When the prosecutors are prohibited from making reasonable compromises, fewer DWI charges will be filed. Either that or many cases will end up dismissed or lost at trial.

Look for a get-tough bill to be filed soon in the Missouri legislature.


Come back with a warrant