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What is the difference between a DWI, DUI, OWI, OVI, OUI, DWAI, etc.?


These terms are all acronyms that refer to the offense commonly known as "drunk driving."  Different states have slightly different names for the crime.  Many states, including Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois, Kansas, and Oklahoma use the phrase "driving under the influence" or DUI.  Iowa uses the phrase "operating while intoxicated" or OWI.  Like Nebraska and Arkansas, Missouri law uses the phrase "driving while intoxicated," so the term DWI is most commonly used here. 


The terms DWI and DUI are used interchangeably throughout this website.


I just got arrested for a Missouri DWI.  What happens next?


ISSUE ONE:  The Missouri Implied Consent Proceeding:  Under Missouri's implied consent law, any person who operates a motor vehicle is deemed to have given consent to a chemical test or tests of the person's breath, blood, saliva or urine for the purpose of determining the alcohol or drug content of the person's if the arresting officer has reasonable grounds to believe that they have committed a DWI.

This law requires you to submit to a chemical (breath) test when requested by a law enforcement officer following a lawful DWI arrest.  If you refused to submit to the test, your license was likely revoked for one year.  If you failed a chemical test (BAC of 0.08 % or greater (0.02 % or greater for persons under 21)), you likely face a 30 day suspension followed by 60 days of restricted driving privileges.  [Note:  This period is longer if you had a prior DWI type incident in the past five years.]

If you had a valid Missouri drivers license at the time of your arrest, the officer probably seized your license and issued you a 15 day temporary driving permit.  You have 15 days from the date of your Notice of Suspension/Revocation is issued (usually your date of arrest) to request an administrative hearing to challenge this suspension / revocation.  If timely requested, a hearing is scheduled by the Department of Revenue.  The court may issue a stay order allowing you to continue to drive until the court issues its final order on your challenge. 

If the court rules in your favor, the suspension / revocation is canceled and your license is returned.  If the court denies your challenge, you will serve the remaining time for the original revocation period.  You will then need to meet the reinstatement requirements.   


ISSUE TWO:  The Missouri DWI / Excessive BAC Criminal Offense:  Separate from the administrative (implied consent) suspension /revocation is the criminal charge for driving while intoxicated (DWI) or driving with excessive blood alcohol content (BAC). 


Under Missouri law, it is unlawful for a person to operate a motor vehicle while in an intoxicated or drugged condition.  A person is in an "intoxicated condition" when he is under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance, or drug, or any combination. 


It is also unlawful for a person to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 percent or greater.  This offense is known as "driving with excessive blood alcohol content" sometimes referred to as a "per se DWI."


Important:  The implied consent revocation / suspension and the criminal DWI case are completely separate proceedings from one another. 


Will my Missouri drivers license be revoked or suspended?


RELATED TO ISSUE ONE ABOVE:  Your Missouri drivers license (or your right to drive in Missouri if you do not have a valid Missouri operators license) may be revoked for one year under implied consent law for refusing to submit to a chemical (breath) test.  If you failed a breath test (or other chemical test), you generally face a shorter suspension / revocation (depending on your five year DWI history).



RELATED TO ISSUE TWO ABOVE:  If you are convicted of the Missouri DWI offense or Excessive BAC offense, you will also lose your Missouri drivers license (or your right to drive in Missouri if you don't have a valid Missouri license) for 30 days followed by 60 days of restricted driving privileges.  If this is your second conviction, you face a license revocation ranging from one to five years.  Talk to your Missouri DWI attorney for possible revocation lengths for your situation.



Please keep in mind that your Missouri drivers license can be suspended for a variety of reasons unrelated to a DWI / Excessive BAC arrest e.g. excessive points on your license, etc.


I have a Missouri commercial driver license (CDL).  How long will my CDL be suspended for a DWI conviction?


For a first DWI conviction in Missouri your CDL will be suspended for one year (regardless of whether you're driving a commercial vehicle at the time of the offense).  For a second DWI your Missouri CDL will be revoked for life.  Additionally, courts are not allowed to defer imposition of sentence, suspend imposition of sentence, or allow a Missouri CDL holder to enter into a diversion program that prevents a traffic conviction, in any type of vehicle, from appearing on the person's driving record.


What happens if I get caught driving while my license is revoked or suspended?


Driving while revoked should be avoided as it is a new new criminal offense.  Penalties include fines and jail time.  Further, if you are on probation for the DWI / Excessive BAC offense when you're arrested for driving while revoked, you will face a probation violation allegation as well.  Speak to a Missouri DWI lawyer about specific penalties that you may face.


I really need to drive.  Will I be able to get a restricted license / hardship permit / limited driving privileges?


If you face a suspension or revocation in the State of Missouri you may qualify for limited driving privileges (LDP).  An LDP allows you to drive to and from work, to school, to treatment, and several other places.  It does not allow for unlimited driving however.


There is often a waiting period (typically 30 to 90 days) before you become eligible for LDP.  You may not be eligible for LDP if you have an extensive DWI history.  Also, limited driving privileges are NOT available to drive commercial vehicles.  You will have to file an SR-22 (more on that below) if you apply for limited driving privileges.


Talk to your Missouri DWI lawyer about whether you qualify and how to apply for a limited driving privileges.


Is a DWI / Excessive BAC offense in Missouri a misdemeanor or felony charge?


In the State of Missouri, a DWI or an Excessive BAC is usually a misdemeanor charge if this is your first offense or you are a "prior offender."  However, if you are a "persistent offender," an "aggravated offender," or a "chronic offender," the charge is a felony offense.  See the chart below for more on what these terms mean.


What type of penalties might I face if I am convicted of a Missouri DWI or Excessive BAC offense?


Upon conviction of an Missouri DWI / Excessive BAC offense, a defendant can receive a variety of penalties including probation and alcohol education and treatment (Substance Abuse Traffic Offender Program (SATOP)).  A range of minimum penalties is set forth below: 


Class B misdemeanor

  • 30 day Missouri license suspension followed by 60 days restricted license;
  • fine;
  • jail possible but not required;
  • possible ignition interlock device;
  • 8 points added to driving record.
Class A misdemeanor
  • at least a one year Missouri license revocation (five year revocation if this is the second conviction within five years);
  • fine;
  • at least two days jail time;
  • ignition interlock device required
  • 12 points added to driving record.
Class D felony
  • 10 year Missouri license revocation (privileges may be restored only upon court order);
  • substantial fine;
  • at least 10 days jail
  • 12 points added to driving record.
Class C felony
  • everything listed above and a possible lengthy prison sentence.

A "prior offender" is a person who has pled guilty to or has been found guilty of one DWI / Excessive BAC offense, where such prior offense occurred within five years of the present DWI / Excessive BAC.

A "persistent offender" is a person who has pled guilty to or has been found guilty of two or more DWI / Excessive BAC offenses. 

An "aggravated offender" is a person who has pled guilty to or has been found guilty of three or more DWI / Excessive BAC offenses. 

A "chronic offender" is a person who has pled guilty to or has been found guilty of four or more DWI / Excessive BAC offenses.

Will my defense lawyer be able to plea bargain / negotiate my Missouri DWI charge down to another (lesser) offense?

Perhaps.  Negotiating a client's case with the prosecutor is something that your Missouri lawyer can advise you about.  Sometimes a plea to a lesser type offense is possible.  Sometimes a Suspended Imposition of Sentence (SIS) is possible.  This SIS can result in the dismissal of the DWI charge upon successful completion of the program requirements.  In some cases, your only option will be to plead to the DWI / Excessive BAC offense or take your case to trial.

Will Missouri DWI / Excessive BAC conviction go on "my driving record?"

Yes.  These convictions will go on your Missouri driving record.  You may be able to expunge a Missouri DWI / Excessive BAC conviction after 10 years. 

Just how much jail time will I have to do if I am convicted of a DWI / Excessive BAC offense in Missouri?

The amount of incarceration received for a Missouri DWI conviction will depend on a number of factors, including (but not limited to) the following:

•  your prior driving record especially your Excessive BAC / DWI history (including any DWI / DUI's outside of the State of Missouri);

•  your level of intoxication / blood alcohol content;

•  whether there was an accident / collision involved;

•  whether there was injury to another person in any collision;

•  which Missouri court your case is in;

•  what judge you are sentenced by;

•  whether there was a passenger / child in your car;

•  whether the court feels you have accepted responsibility for your actions.


I am licensed to drive in a state other than Missouri and I was arrested for a Missouri DWI.  Will my drivers license be suspended or revoked?

The State of Missouri only has the authority to revoke your right to drive in Missouri. 

However, Missouri and 44 other states and the District of Columbia have adopted an agreement known as the "Driver License Compact."  Pursuant to the Compact, the State of Missouri will report a Missouri DWI / Excessive BAC conviction to the home state of the driver (assuming the home state has also adopted the Compact).  Your home state will then generally take action to suspend or revoke your license.

This also works in reverse.  If you are a Missouri licensed driver and you are convicted of a DUI / DWI charge in another state, Missouri will likely revoke your license when it learns of the conviction. 

What happens if I was already on probation for a prior crime when I got arrested for my Missouri DWI?

Committing a new crime while you're on probation for a previous convicition creates at least two problems.  First, you face the new Missouri DWI / Excessive BAC charge.  Second, you face a probation violation hearing for failing to obey all laws (a standard condition of any probation).  The most serious scenario is when you receive a new Missouri DWI / Excessive BAC when you're already on probation for a previous DWI conviction (in Missouri or elsewhere).  When this happens, its in your best interest to speak to a Missouri DWI lawyer as soon as possible.

Will I have to install an Ignition Interlock Device on my car?


An ignition interlock device (IID) is a breath alcohol measuring device that is connected to your motor vehicle ignition.  In order to start the vehicle, a driver must blow a breath sample into the device which then measures alcohol concentration.  If the alcohol concentration exceeds the startup set point on the interlock device, the vehicle will not start.  You also need to blow into the IID periodically while you drive the vehicle.


Under Missouri law, a court may require that any person who is found guilty of or pleads guilty to a first DWI or Excessive BAC offense.  A court shall require that any person who is found guilty of or pleads guilty to a second or subsequent DWI / Excessive BAC offense shall not operate any motor vehicle unless that vehicle is equipped with an ignition interlock device for a period of not less than six months from the date of reinstatement of the person's driver's license.  In addition, any court authorized to grant a limited driving privilege to any person who is found guilty of or pleads guilty to a second or subsequent DWI / Excessive BAC offense shall require the use of an ignition interlock device on all vehicles operated by the person as a required condition of the limited driving privilege.


Talk to a Missouri DWI lawyer about whether this requirement applies to your situation.

What will a Missouri DWI do to my insurability?

If your insurance company finds out about a Missouri DWI conviction one of two things typically happen.  Either your insurance company will raise your insurance rates or you may be cancelled or non-renewed.  Your insurance company will learn of your DWI conviction if you have to file an SR-22 as a result of a DWI related offense.

What is an SR-22?

An SR-22 is a certificate from a Missouri licensed insurance company certifying that you have purchased liability insurance that meets the State's minimum required coverage limits.  The SR-22 provides proof to the Missouri Department of Revenue that you are insured.  If you cancel your insurance or the insurance company cancels your policy before your suspension period is over, the company must notify the DOR that the certificate is canceled. 

You will have to file an SR-22 if you apply for limited driving privileges.  Talk to your Missouri DWI attorney about whether you will have to file an SR-22 for other reasons.

My suspension / revocation is nearly complete.  How do I reinstate my drivers license?

Once your suspension or revocation is served, you must fulfill Missouri’s reinstatement requirements before your drivers license can be reinstated. If you do not satisfy the reinstatement requirements, your driving privilege remain suspended or revoked.  You must send the following items to the Missouri Driver License Bureau: 

Your Substance Abuse Traffic Offender Program (SATOP) completion form or a comparable program form.

A reinstatement of $45.  Proof of financial responsibility usually an SR-22.  You must file and maintain proof of financial responsibility (the SR-22) for two years from the date your license suspension or revocation began.

Proof of installation of an Ignition Interlock Device if you have more than one alcohol offense, conviction, or alcohol/drug test refusal on your driving record.

Also, if you were revoked for at least one year you also required to take and pass the complete driver examination and apply for a new license at proper fee.

I'm not a United States citizen.  Will a conviction for a Missouri DWI offense result in my removal from this country?

Probably not.  Typical, first offense Missouri DWI offenses (no priors; no injuries) are not considered crimes of moral turpitude or aggravated felonies resulting in removal.  It is important to consult an experienced immigration attorney about your situation just as you should consult with an experienced Missouri DWI lawyer about your pending driving while intoxicated charge. 

Keep two points in mind.  First, it is very important to answer honestly all questions about prior arrests / convictions on immigration and Visa applications and forms.  Lying on these forms is often considered more serious than any DWI conviction.  Second, non-citizens must take extra care not to drive on a suspended or revoked drivers license.

Are there any concerns for a licensed pilot who gets a Missouri DWI?


Yes.  The FAA has special reporting requirements for certain Motor Vehicle Actions including Missouri DWI convictions and certain implied consent revocations and suspensions.  Learn more about FAA requirements here.

I missed my Missouri court appearance.  What happens now?

Failing to appear (FTA) for court in Missouri is to be avoided.  When you miss a court appearance, bad things happen.  At a minimum, the Missouri court typically issues a warrant for your arrest (commonly known as a bench warrant).  You may also be charged with a separate criminal offense known as failure to appear.

Talk to a Missouri DWI attorney as soon as possible.  Your lawyer may be able to schedule a hearing to get the warrant recalled.  Sometimes, your only option is to turn yourself in on the outstanding warrant.  A new court date will then be scheduled.

Can I represent myself on my Missouri DWI and other criminal charges?

Yes.  You have an absolute constitutional right to represent yourself on any criminal charge no matter how serious the offense including a Missouri DWI offense.  Keep in mind that Missouri DWI law is detailed as shown by the information here.  If you cannot afford to hire your own Missouri attorney, you definitely should apply for a court appointed attorney to represent you. 

Websites, including this one, provide general Missouri DWI information but do not provide legal advice or create an attorney / client relationship.  General information cannot replace specific legal advice from a qualified Missouri lawyer regarding your criminal charge, problem, or situation.  Consult qualified Missouri Drunk Driving - DWI lawyers / attorneys for advice about any specific problem or any Missouri DWI offense that you face.  Missouri attorneys are governed by the Missouri Rules of Professional Conduct.  This website may be considered an advertisement for services under these Rules.  Information contained in this website is believed to be accurate but is not warranted or guaranteed in any way.  No lawyer associated with this website is specialized or certified in any way.  Neither the Supreme Court of Missouri nor The Missouri Bar reviews or approves certifying organizations or specialist designations.  Remember, the choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely upon advertisements.  2013.


Missouri DWI lawyers provide drunk driving (DWI) and criminal defense assistance to the communities of:  Kansas City, St. Louis, Springfield, Independence, Columbia, Greene County, Boone County, Jackson County, Clay County, Platte County, and Cass County.  Missouri DWI lawyers may accept Visa and MasterCard credit cards. 


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