In the state of Missouri, there are two different charges you can face for drunk driving. Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a general charge for any driver who appears to be under the influence of any drug, including but not limited to alcohol. A violation for blood alcohol content, however, relates specifically to the legal limit for the amount of alcohol in a person’s blood while driving. A person can be charged with driving with excessive blood alcohol content if their BAC is at a level above .08 for anyone 21 and over. For drivers under 21, a BAC level of .02 is sufficient for a BAC charge, and commercial drivers are limited to a BAC of .04. This crime is usually punishable with up to 6 months of jail as well as license restrictions and fines for the first offense, and increasing punishments for multiple offenses.
Blood alcohol content can be difficult for a driver to estimate before getting behind the wheel. The rate a person’s body absorbs and processes alcohol depends on a variety of factors, including weight, metabolism, gender, body composition, food and water consumption, and rate of alcohol consumption. A person who weighs 100 lbs, for example, would be considered an impaired driver after only two servings of alcohol, whereas a person weighing 200 lbs would typically reach the same BAC level as their lighter counterpart after four drinks. The type of alcohol consumed can also play a factor, as a typical mixed drink usually has a higher alcohol content than a single 12 oz serving of beer, and the percentage of alcohol in liquor varies greatly between manufacturers and type.
A blood or breathalyzer test is used to determine a persons BAC. In Missouri, if you are arrested for a DWI, you are required to take a breathalyzer test. There is also an implied consent law, which states that if you are arrested by an officer for a DWI, your consent for a breathalyzer test is immediately implied. If you refuse to take the test, your refusal can be used as evidence against you and your license will be revoked for one year. If you have refused to take the test multiple times, your license will be revoked for one year, and an ignition interlock device will be installed in your vehicle once your license is restored.
It is generally not helpful to refuse a BAC test in Missouri. Drivers can still be charged with a DWI without a reading from a breathalyzer, and the consequences for refusal are immediate and lengthy. Furthermore, refusal of a BAC test is generally useful evidence in prosecuting DWI offenders.