Missouri's DWI laws get stricter with new ignition interlock rules

Missouri recently changed its DWI laws, targeting DWI offenders who violate their probation.

As Fox 2 News recently reported, new rules have come into effect in Missouri that could lead to tougher penalties for those who have been ordered to install an ignition interlock device in their cars. SB 254, which came into force August 28, allows for the use of the devices to be extended for three-month periods for those who have been convicted of driving while intoxicated and who break certain requirements of their probation periods. For convicted DWI offenders, the increased reliance on ignition interlock devices has both benefits and disadvantages.

Three-month extensions

Ignition interlocks are not new to drunken driving-related offenses in Missouri. Under the current law, those convicted of a DWI may be ordered to install the devices in their car for a six-month period after which they can regain their license. However, if they try to tamper with the device or they test above a 0.08 blood-alcohol content level on it, then the devices remain mandatory for another six-month period.

The new legislation shifts the focus to the last three months of the driver's probationary period. If the ignition interlock is tampered with or registers a driver trying to drive with more than a 0.08 blood-alcohol content level, then the probationary period (during which the ignition interlock is mandatory) gets extended for another three months. In order to regain his or her license, as KOMU 8 News points out, a driver would need to be violation-free for the final three consecutive months of his or her probation.

Ignition interlock devices

The new legislation is an indicator of the growing reliance Missouri and many other states are placing on ignition interlock devices in their efforts to combat repeated drunk driving offenses. For people convicted of DWI, an ignition interlock device has both benefits and drawbacks. The devices, for example, can be highly intrusive in a person's everyday life and a source of embarrassment when driving with passengers in a car.

At the same time, however, the devices do allow those convicted of a DWI to maintain most of their driving privileges. In contrast to jail time or license suspensions, an ignition interlock device often enables convicted DWI offenders to hold down a job and maintain a decent standard of living, both of which, of course, often require access to a vehicle.

Criminal defense

Lawmakers and prosecutors are constantly looking for new ways to crack down on drunk driving offenses and those who have been charged with DWI should not expect to be treated lightly by the judicial system. DWI defendants should contact a criminal defense attorney right away to discuss their case. A qualified attorney will be able to inform clients not just about all available defenses to these serious charges, but also about what the long-term consequences of a DWI conviction may be.