Many people believe that they cannot face criminal DWI charges unless they fail a breathalyzer test. It’s true that blowing above the legal limit of 0.08% can lead to DWI charges. However, it’s important for drivers to understand that they can still be charged with DWI with a BAC below 0.08% under certain circumstances.
The legal limit for most drivers is 0.08%, but the legal limit for underage drivers is much lower. An underage driver is legally intoxicated if his BAC is 0.02% or more. This means an underage driver can face criminal charges for having a BAC under 0.08%, however, he will not necessarily face DWI charges. Some underage drivers with low BAC results are charged with being a minor in possession of alcohol instead of DWI.
Commercial drivers are held to higher standards than other motorists. For this reason, the legal limit for these drivers is 0.04%, which means they can be charged with DWI even if their BAC level is below the 0.08% legal limit. This lower legal limit applies to all commercial drivers regardless of whether or not they were driving a commercial vehicle at the time of their arrest.
Signs of Impairment
According to the state law, a driver commits the crime of DWI when he operates a motor vehicle while in an intoxicated state. This definition of DWI is broad and does not explicitly say that the driver must have a BAC level of 0.08% or more in order to face criminal charges. This means that a driver can be charged with DWI in Missouri whenever a police officer has reason to believe that he is too impaired to safely operate a motor vehicle—even if his BAC is below 0.08%.
For example, let’s say a police officer pulls you over after noticing that you are driving erratically. During the traffic stop, the officer notices that your reaction times are slower than average. He also notices you are having trouble paying attention, keeping your eyes open, and following directions. Based on these observations, the police officer may conclude that you are too impaired by either alcohol or drugs to safely operate a vehicle. Regardless of the breathalyzer results, the officer may arrest you for DWI.