Juvenile Drivers and DUI/DWI in Missouri

The rules for Juvenile Drivers and DUI/DWI in Missouri are more strict than for adult drivers. Learn more from Missouri DWI & Criminal Law Center!

Kimberly2 1Author:

Kimberly J. Benjamin, Founder & Managing Attorney

November 03. 2022.

Underage Drinking and Driving in Missouri

According to the CDC, juvenile drunk drivers are likelier to be involved in a car accident than adults with the same BAC. For this reason, several US states, including Missouri, have a zero-tolerance policy for underage drunk driving. This means that a juvenile DUI conviction will result in punishment that is as strict as that for adults or maybe even stricter.

As a result, the legal limit of blood alcohol content is much lower for persons under 21. While the limit is 0.08% for adults, it is 0.02% for minors since they are still below the legal drinking age.

The penalty for any juvenile alcohol-related traffic offense in Missouri is strict to discourage the offense. In some cases, underage people may even face the possibility of going to jail. Therefore, it is essential to understand how a DWI charge can affect you as an underage driver and to get an excellent criminal defense in Missouri to avoid severe penalties.


Missouri law does not differentiate between driving under the influence (DUI) and driving while intoxicated (DWI). The statutes of Missouri use the term DWI to refer to the offense of driving while impaired or intoxicated, either by drugs, alcohol, a controlled substance, or a combination of them. DUI is also used in other states as the preferred term for the same offense.

Missouri DWI Laws for Minors

According to section 311.325 of the Revised Laws of Missouri, any person under 21 who is visibly intoxicated or drugged or has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.02% is guilty of a misdemeanor. Typically, where the excessive blood alcohol content is below 0.08% but above 0.02%, the underage driver is charged with possession of alcohol rather than a DUI.

A first-time DUI offender will be charged with a Class B misdemeanor, whereas a second juvenile DUI conviction or subsequent offense will attract a Class A misdemeanor charge.

The only exceptions under that law are for college students above 18 years old enrolled in a culinary course that requires them to taste certain intoxicating substances as part of their curriculum, strictly for instructional purposes.

Consequences of Underage DWI

Once an underage driver is arrested for a DWI, they get a driver’s license suspension immediately. This means that their driving privileges are revoked for a specific duration. The period is 90 days for first-time offenders, but for a second offense or repeat offenders, they could face suspension for up to one year.

Also, minors arrested for DWI are subject to criminal penalties. In the event of a Class B misdemeanor charge, a fine of up to $1000 and a jail sentence of up to six months may be imposed. Repeat offenders may face up to $2000 in fines and a jail term of up to one year. In most cases, an experienced DWI Lawyer can help ensure the minor driver does not go to jail.

Additionally, the driver’s licenses of those under 16 must wait until they are 17 years old to receive a license. Upon initial arrest and license revocation, the minor can request an administrative hearing to prevent a permanent suspension. They will get their license back if they successfully contest the suspension. Otherwise, the suspension is upheld and goes on the person’s driving record.

The minors may also get probation, mandatory community service, and attendance of substance abuse classes as part of their punishment. All of these penalties can have an adverse effect on the juvenile’s academic and personal life. Hence, getting a juvenile defense attorney is crucial to ensure that the person is accorded all rights during their case.

Expungement of a Minor’s DWI Conviction

The Missouri expungement criteria for minors convicted of their first DWI are less strict than for individuals over 21. Adults must wait ten years after the DWI before becoming eligible, but minors can become eligible once they reach 21 or after two years from the date they were convicted, whichever dates come first.

Missouri law, however, requires that it be the minor’s first DWI and that the person must not have been convicted of any other offense involving the possession or use of illegal substances since the incident occurred.

Additionally, minors convicted or pleaded guilty to a DWI while driving a commercial motor vehicle or operating with a commercial driver’s license are not eligible for expungement.

Missouri Juvenile DUI

As stated by the Missouri Juvenile Justice Association, Missouri considers a minor an adult at 17 years of age to administer the juvenile code. This is even though the adult age for alcohol consumption is 21 years old. Furthermore, Missouri’s Juvenile Court does not have jurisdiction over traffic offenses committed by minors 15 and a half years old or above.

Since the legal driving age in Missouri starts from 15, a minor arrested for a DWI will likely be charged in the same court as an adult. Furthermore, repeat offenders or those who have caused some damage due to drunk driving will face harsher penalties.

Possible Defenses for Juvenile DWI

A minor charged with a DWI may claim that the police officer or law enforcement officer had no probable cause for the traffic stop in the first place. You may also be able to claim that the police infringed on your rights or that the procedure for carrying out the breath test or other field sobriety test was flawed, inappropriate, or inconsistent with regulatory requirements.

It may be best for the minor to discuss the events with their experienced defense attorney and follow the lawyer’s legal guidance. Such discussion is protected by an attorney-client relationship privilege, meaning it is confidential.

Why Hire a Lawyer?

A DWI on a child’s criminal and driving record could reflect poorly on them. It could affect their college admission, job, and other life endeavors. For this reason, hiring an aggressive DWI lawyer may be best to build a solid DUI defense.

If you are in or near Kansas City and need legal representation or consultation from a reputable law firm, contact trained and experienced criminal defense attorneys at the Missouri DWI & Criminal Law Center today.

Our legal professionals will provide you with comprehensive and aggressive representation to ensure that your rights are protected. We understand juvenile DUI laws and will work hard to ensure that your case is resolved most favorably. Contact us now for a free consultation.

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