Legal Alcohol Limit in Missouri
Missouri BAC: What is the Legal Alcohol Limit in Missouri?
Under Missouri law, you generally can be charged with a DWI if you have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or greater. This standard is lower for minors and operators of commercial motor vehicles. Being mindful of these limits, many people wonder how many drinks they can have before they run the risk of DWI if they drive. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, since various factors can impact a BAC.
Some of the factors that can affect your BAC differ according to the individual. For instance, age, gender, weight, fat/muscle content, hydration, metabolism, emotional state, overall health, and alcohol tolerance all are factors that can impact your BAC. The amount of food that you have consumed and any medications that you regularly take also can affect your BAC. This means that if you and another person consume the same number of identical drinks within the same timeframe, your BAC still might be different than the BAC of the other person.
Other factors depend are not unique to the individual, but they are different according to the situation in which you are drinking. These factors may include:
- The rate of alcohol consumption
- The carbonation of drinks
- The amount of alcohol in each drink
- The number of drinks
- The type of alcohol in each drink
Since there are so many factors that potentially can impact your BAC, it may be impossible to accurately predict your BAC based on the number of drinks that you have had. Since the consequences of even a first-time DWI can be so harsh, it is likely best to err on the side of caution and simply refrain from driving after you have consumed any alcohol at all. This removes the possibility of you being charged with DWI if stopped and your BAC measures higher than you think.
When you are charged with any type of DWI or alcohol-related offense, you will need an experienced DWI defense attorney, such as those at The Missouri DWI & Criminal Law Center, to represent your interests from the very beginning of your case. We are here to look at the facts of your case, explore your options, and build the strongest defense possible on your behalf.
Foods that Affect Breathalyzer
Blood alcohol content (BAC) is a measurement of the percentage of alcohol in your blood, by volume. Measured either directly through a blood draw or indirectly with a breath sample, BAC provides scientific leverage in DWI and DUI cases. But BAC tests, like any scientific procedure, can be inaccurate due to many factors. Device malfunctions, user error, and uncontrolled variables can all result in false positives.
In particular, certain foods and diets have the potential to influence BAC breath test results. Generally speaking, this can occur when the metabolic pathways in your body create alcohol as a byproduct of breaking down foods. While you might not become legally “intoxicated” from something like abstaining from carbs, it can potentially complicate DWI proceedings. Many different foods, drinks, and dietary plans can affect BAC tests, but we’ll review a few of the most common examples here.
Low Carb Diets
Your body produces ketones when it lacks sufficient carbohydrate intake for fuel and draws energy from your fat stores instead (this process is called ketosis). The Paleo diet and other low carb diets can prompt ketosis.
Ketones can also be produced when people with diabetes experience hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) or when people fast. Ketones have a chemical composition similar to alcohol, specifically isopropyl alcohol. Isopropyl alcohol differs structurally from ethanol (drinking alcohol), but some breathalyzer devices might not distinguish between the two, which presents obvious problems. To make matters worse, ketosis can potentially cause symptoms that mimic those of alcohol consumption, such as slurred speech, poor coordination, and jittery motor control.
Studies have shown consuming a mixed drink made with a diet (i.e. sugar-free) drink, such as diet Coke, can result in higher BAC levels than consuming a mixed drink with a full-sugar beverage. Sugar (or any nutrient) slows the absorption of alcohol into your bloodstream, which is why drinking alcohol on an empty stomach can be so dangerous.
Foods that Contain or Produce Alcohol
Eating bread and sweets that contain yeast can leave a small residual amount of alcohol in your mouth, which could potentially be detected on a breathalyzer. While some breathalyzers claim to detect mouth alcohol, they do not always do so. In addition, one of the approved breathalyzers in Missouri does not have the capability of detecting mouth alcohol at all. Yeast breaks down sugar and, as a result, produces alcohol. Other foods that could have this effect include foods containing beer, wine or liqueurs. It’s best to wait 15 minutes after consuming food or beverages and rinse your mouth thoroughly with water before taking a breathalyzer test to minimize the chance of a false positive.
An Important Caveat
Fuel cell technology, which is used in most modern police-grade devices, has enabled breathalyzers to detect specific types of alcohol, specifically ethanol. Thus, one of these devices should not identify the isopropyl alcohol-shaped ketones as ethanol. Again, this information is to give you an idea of the science behind BAC tests and illustrate how they can be unreliable. We understand that when you are facing criminal charges, any measure of unreliability can be a cause for concern.
Call an Attorney to Discuss Your BAC Test Results
To ensure you are not convicted based off of a false BAC reading, make sure you carefully document everything you ate or drank prior to the arrest. You should also be aware that certain medications, such as cough syrup, have the potential to affect BAC test results, so note down any you took in the last 24-48 hours as well.
Review this information and any medical conditions you have with a highly experienced Missouri DWI attorney, like the partners at The Missouri DWI & Criminal Law Center. While being on a low-carb diet or eating certain foods may have the potential to influence your BAC, keep in mind these are just uncontrolled variables. It takes working closely with a skilled DWI attorney to device a defense that leverages facts such as these and challenges unreliable forms of evidence, such as BAC test results.
Field Sobriety Tests: Are Designed for Failure?
Field sobriety tests, also called roadside sobriety tests, are typically conducted prior to a DWI arrest. Legally, you are not required to submit to a field sobriety test. Refusing a field sobriety test will likely result in an arrest, but it would not involve an automatic license suspension, which follows any chemical test refusal. That said, many argue field sobriety tests are a trap, designed to fail even sober drivers.
In reality, the main drawback is that they are subjective and unreliable, while BAC tests using a breath, blood or urine sample are held to more rigorous scientific standards. Some also argue it is possible for an intoxicated person to “pass” a field sobriety test. Inaccuracies aside, the battery of tests is usually comprised of:
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)
The horizontal gaze nystagmus test is commonly recognized as following a pen with your eyes. What the officer is looking for is “smooth pursuit” meaning your eyes follow the object smoothly and with oculomotor control (i.e. in a controlled manner). Lack of smooth pursuit is characterized by involuntary jerking or bouncing movements and is a strong indicator of intoxication. However, many medical conditions can inhibit smooth pursuit, such as epilepsy and, more commonly, hypertension.
The Walk and Turn
This premise of this test is simple enough: walk, heel to toe, in a straight line, turn around by taking a series of small steps (not pivoting), and walk back. The officer is assessing your balance and whether you follow directions. When under the intense pressure of a DWI stop, anyone would have trouble following instructions from an intimidating police officer. Likewise, the type of balance the walk and turn assesses is not one we hone in our everyday lives. Thus, many of us are likely to be a little shaky when given such instructions.
One Leg Stand
This test is even more straightforward than the walk and turn and requires you to stand with one leg up, arms at your sides, and count out loud until the officer tells you to stop. Again, the officer is looking for your ability to follow instructions and balance. The problem is balance can be affected by any number of conditions, including long periods in the car driving. It is still effective in highlighting the correlation between intoxication and compromised balance and cognitive skills, but it could just as easily be caused by dehydration, low blood sugar or low blood pressure.
Understanding these field sobriety tests can help emphasize just how vital it is to exercise your rights. You have a right to refuse to submit to a field sobriety test, and there are no administrative penalties. Furthermore, police officers often administer the tests incorrectly, and the “results” of the tests are highly subjective. If you are facing DWI charges in Missouri, consult with a DWI defense attorney at The Missouri DWI & Criminal Law Center immediately. Whether you took a field sobriety test or not, an experienced DWI defense attorney can help uncover weaknesses in the prosecution’s argument and leverage the case in your favor.
If you are ever pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving, the police officer may ask you to perform a series of field sobriety tests. The purpose of these tests is to determine whether or not you are exhibiting signs of intoxication. But, are you required to take them? Here’s what you need to know to protect your rights:
Are Field Sobriety Tests Required?
There is no law that requires drivers to take field sobriety tests during a DWI/DUI stop. Police officers typically don’t tell drivers that these tests are completely voluntary, but it’s true. Refusing to take the field sobriety tests, however, does not mean you are off the hook. The police officer can still arrest you for DWI even if you refuse to take the field sobriety tests.
Field Sobriety Tests vs. Chemical Tests
It’s important to note the difference between field sobriety tests and chemical tests. A field sobriety test allows officers to evaluate your balance, coordination, and concentration as you perform a series of movements. A chemical test involves using a sample of your breath, blood, or urine to determine if you are intoxicated. There are no consequences for refusing to take a field sobriety test, but there are penalties for refusing to take a chemical test. Keep this in mind if you are ever pulled over on suspicion of DWI.
To Refuse Or Not to Refuse
Field sobriety tests are not always accurate. Many people find these tests difficult to perform even when they are completely sober. Balancing on one leg or walking in a perfectly straight line is challenging for people who are nervous or wearing uncomfortable shoes at the time of the DWI stop. But, the police officer could mistake your nervousness or discomfort for intoxication.
People with mental or physical disabilities can struggle to follow instructions or complete certain parts of the field sobriety tests even if they are sober. If the police officer isn’t aware of your mental or physical disability, he will assume you are intoxicated if you are unable to perform the tests. His observations can then be used as evidence against you in court even though they are inaccurate. Because these tests are unreliable, many criminal defense attorneys advise drivers to refuse to take them.
Have you been charged with DWI? If so, the attorneys at The Missouri DWI & Criminal Law Center can help. Trained at the nationally renowned Gerry Spence Trial Lawyers College and mentored under award-winning trial attorney and firm founder Kim Benjamin, you can trust our attorneys will fight tirelessly to reach the best possible outcome in your case.
BAC and Legal Alcohol Limit in Missouri Facts
Blood alcohol content or concentration (BAC) represents the percentage of alcohol in your blood by volume. This is a simplified explanation of the complicated science behind blood alcohol but is essential to understand.
In Missouri, BAC plays a crucial role in DWI and DUI cases, as the criminal justice system turns to science to legally distinguish intoxication. Without this legal distinction, which is .08% in all states, prosecuting drunk drivers would be much more subjective. Unless you are a biochemist, it can be difficult to delineate BAC fact from fiction. Unfortunately, BAC is a key piece of evidence that can mean the difference between a criminal conviction and an acquittal.
Many critics argue the criminal justice system relies on “junk science” to prosecute people and put them behind bars. A scientific analysis done by a prosecutor will not carry the same weight as an analysis done by a trained scientist. But that doesn’t necessarily mean BAC science is “junk science.” Let’s step away from labels and look at the fact and fiction of BAC.
If a defendant had a BAC of .08% or above, the court can establish that person was intoxicated. Blood alcohol content is an important factor in DWI cases, and it’s important to understand that law enforcement often uses breathalyzers to measure BAC. Breathalyzers do not directly measure blood alcohol. Rather, they measure alcohol using a sample of “deep lung” or alveolar air. Oxygenated blood passes through your alveolar sacs in your lungs.
Alcohol is volatile, so blood alcohol can be determined by measuring the alcohol that evaporates from the bloodstream into your alveolar air. Breathalyzer devices measure the evaporated “breath alcohol” in the breath sample. Blood tests directly measure blood alcohol content as well as the presence of any drugs, but breathalyzers are more commonly used because they are convenient and involve less paperwork.
Measuring BAC through a breath or blood test seems like a clean and simple way of proving guilt. In reality, BAC test results are notoriously inaccurate. And breathalyzer tests do not directly measure blood alcohol. Even with indirect measurement, many factors can influence test readings. Foods, diets and even some medical conditions can produce false positives.
Also, breathalyzers are just like any other electronic device. They can malfunction, require ongoing maintenance, and should only be used by trained individuals. Even when BAC is measured using a blood sample, that sample must be taken in a laboratory setting by a qualified technician, must be preserved and stored properly and analyzed according to scientific procedures. And even then, errors do occur.
Bridging the Gap Between Fact and Fiction
The courts have a way of getting around the imprecision of BAC testing. In Missouri, you can still be convicted of DWI if your BAC is below .08% or if you didn’t take a BAC test. Blood alcohol content is not necessary for a DWI conviction. Nevertheless, Missouri’s implied consent law requires all drivers to submit to a BAC test if arrested for DWI because, without BAC test results, it’s harder to prove intoxication.
An Attorney Can Challenge BAC Test Results
Science can make our lives easier and make certain things, like prosecuting criminals, more efficient. But this is a matter of quantity over quality. BAC test results can be wrong. But they provide numbers on paper, and numbers are often more convincing than words. The good news is an experienced Missouri DWI defense attorney can often make words seem more compelling than those numbers. This is the essence of good DWI defense: point out the unreliability of science and argue for a more holistic analysis of what happened. Assessing “intoxication” is much more difficult when the full context is considered.
If you are facing DWI or DUI charges, it’s essential you seek highly experienced help. If you need trusted legal guidance in Cass County, Kansas City or the surrounding areas, the Missouri DWI & Criminal Law Center can help. The attorneys at the Missouri DWI & Criminal Law Center have the skills and experience needed to guide Missouri residents through some of life’s most challenging moments.
Missouri Implied Consent Law
If you are ever arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI), the police officer who made the arrest will ask you to take a chemical test. In most cases, the officer will specifically ask you to take a breath test by blowing into a breathalyzer device. The results of a breathalyzer test can be used as evidence against you in court, which is why so many people are hesitant to blow into the device. But, are you allowed to refuse to take a breathalyzer test? Here’s what you need to know:
Implied Consent in Missouri
The state of Missouri has an implied consent law, which requires drivers to agree to take chemical tests if they are arrested for DWI. Despite this law, it is still possible for drivers who have been arrested for DWI to refuse to take a breathalyzer test. However, this does not mean you will simply be allowed to get back into your car and drive away. There are serious consequences for refusing to take a breathalyzer test.
What Happens If You Refuse to Take A Breathalyzer Test?
Refusing to take a breath test will lead to automatic one-year revocation of your driving privileges. In fact, the officer will provide you with a Notice of Revocation immediately following your refusal. This one-year revocation is known as a Chemical Revocation.
The Department of Revenue will need to see proof of an SR-22 certificate to reinstate your driving privileges. You will also need to show that you successfully completed a substance abuse or alcohol education program. If you have more than one alcohol-related offense on your record, the Department of Revenue also needs to see proof that an ignition interlock device (IID) has been installed in your vehicle.
You can still be charged with DWI even if you refuse to take a breathalyzer test, so you could face a number of additional penalties if you plead guilty or are convicted of this crime. If your case goes to trial, the fact that you refused to take the test can be used as evidence against you. The state could argue that a refusal to take a chemical test indicates guilt, even though this is not necessarily true.
What Happens if I Refuse to Submit to an Alcohol or Drug Test if I Am Suspected of DWI?
Like most other states, Missouri has an implied consent law. Under Mo. Rev. Stat. § 302.574, when you obtain a driver’s license, you consent to undergo alcohol or drug testing upon request from law enforcement if you are accused of driving while intoxicated. Although you do have the right to refuse testing, the implied consent law sets forth certain penalties if you do so.
If you refuse chemical testing in this situation, you become subject to a chemical revocation, which means that your driving privileges are revoked for one year. During this time period, however, you may be eligible for a Limited Driving Privilege (LDP), which allows you to drive back and forth to work, school, and medical treatment. You must have an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) installed and proof of motor vehicle liability insurance in order to qualify for LDP.
Following the one-year license revocation period, you can apply to have your driving privileges reinstated. In order to do so, you must pay a $45 reinstatement fee, provide proof of insurance, and provide proof that you completed a Substance Abuse Traffic Offender Program (SATOP). Furthermore, if your driving record shows more than one alcohol or drug-related law enforcement contact, you must show proof of installation of an IID.
You must maintain the IID for six months following the date of the reinstatement of your driving privileges and you will be monitoring during the last three months of that period. If you have any violations during the three-month monitoring period, then you will be required to maintain the IID until you can go for three months without any violations.
Many people believe that refusing to take these tests will help them escape legal trouble. But, this is clearly not the case. It’s important for every driver to keep these consequences in mind when deciding whether or not to comply with an officer’s request to take a breathalyzer test.
If you are facing DWI charges, the attorneys at The Missouri DWI & Criminal Law Center can help.
Legal Alcohol Limit in Missouri: BAC Below 0.08
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 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.
Cass County MO Arrests
Our law firm has handled hundreds of DUI / DWI cases in Cass County and Jackson County, Missouri. The basis of a DUI / DWI arrest involves your blood alcohol content (BAC) during a traffic stop. If you plead guilty to a DUI / DWI, you risk going to jail or prison, losing your license, and paying huge fines.
What is BAC Content?
Blood alcohol content (BAC) is a measure of the amount of alcohol that is present in the blood, based on the volume of alcohol consumed over a given period of time. A BAC of .10 percent means that an individual’s blood contains one part of alcohol for every 1,000 parts of blood. In Missouri, a person is legally intoxicated if that person has a BAC of .08 percent or above.
Factors that Affect BAC
The most obvious factor that affects your BAC is the amount of alcohol you drink during a set amount of time. Other important factors can also affect your BAC. For example, as you age the intoxicating effects of alcohol increase. Gender can also have an effect as women generally have a lower water content in their bodies than men. Since alcohol is water soluble, a woman can have a higher BAC than a man even if all other factors are the same.
Body type will affect BAC. A person who weighs more will usually have more water in their body and therefore will usually have a lower BAC with equal amounts of alcohol consumed than a smaller person. Also, the faster you drink, the faster your BAC will rise. Relative fat content versus muscle content will affect BAC and a person will have a higher BAC with a higher body fat percentage. Most alcohol in the body is broken down by metabolism and different people have different rates in which their bodies metabolize alcohol.
Medications such as cold or allergy pills can react negatively with alcohol and affect BAC; you should check product labels on medications to identify any potential issues with alcohol consumption. If you are stressed, the rate of alcohol absorption in your body can be slowed creating an increased BAC when you calm down.
If you drink alcohol on an empty stomach, your BAC will be higher than a person who has eaten before drinking. Food slows the absorption into your bloodstream by keeping the alcohol you consume in your stomach for a longer period of time. Carbonated drinks such as sparkling wine, champagne, or mixed drinks with sodas may increase the rate at which alcohol passes through your stomach and result in a higher BAC. Some people have negative reactions to alcohol through a genetic condition in which the body has difficulty breaking down alcohol; this may also affect BAC.
BAC After Drinking
Alcohol peaks in the bloodstream approximately 30 to 45 minutes after consuming a drink. After alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream it leaves the body in two ways. A total of about ten percent leaves through the breath, perspiration, and urine. The remainder is broken down through metabolism.
No matter how much or how fast you drink, the body can only dispose of alcohol at a rate of approximately one standard drink per hour. Someone with a BAC of .16, or twice the legal driving limit will require over 10 hours to be completely sober and after 5 hours may still not be under the legal driving limit. A person who reaches a BAC of .20 after a night of heavy drinking may still be over the legal driving limit the following morning, which could be a major problem for anyone who has to go to work the next day.
The only way you can truly protect yourself from being arrested for a DUI / DWI is to not drive after you have been drinking. Be prepared to call a driver or a taxi when you go out and if you do get stopped, call an experienced DUI / DWI attorney to protect your rights.
When facing DWI charges, you need the best legal representation you can find. If you need trusted legal guidance in Cass County, Kansas City or the surrounding areas, the Missouri DWI & Criminal Law Center can help.
The attorneys at the Missouri DWI & Criminal Law Center have the skills and experience needed to guide Missouri residents through some of life’s most challenging moments. Trained at the nationally renowned Gerry Spence Trial Lawyers College and mentored under award-winning trial attorney and firm founder Kim Benjamin, you can trust our attorneys will fight with determination to get you the best outcome possible. Contact us to schedule a consultation with one of our fierce legal advocates today.
If you have been drinking, use our "Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) Calculator"to estimate your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) before you drive, but please keep in mind that the information it provides is just an estimate and may not be inaccurate.