What You Need to Know About Missouri Breathalyzer Laws
Between 2013 and 2020, Missouri recorded an average of 22 thousand annual arrests for driving while intoxicated (DWI), according to the Department of Mental Health’s latest Missouri Trend Data report. Before any arrest, a law enforcement officer will conduct a breathalyzer test, also called a breath alcohol test, to measure the driver’s breath alcohol concentration under the implied consent law.
Every driver on public highways in Missouri must submit to a breath test when being pulled over for suspicion of drunk driving. Now, you can refuse the testing according to section RSMo 577.041, but you’ll risk some consequences, including the immediate suspension of your driver’s license.
However, alcohol tests must be conducted following the rules laid out in Missouri implied consent and DWI law. Therefore, you have rights and defenses that you can invoke to fight a DWI charge.
Consider Missouri DWI & Criminal Law Center when you need a lawyer to assist you in navigating the law on DWI.
What Are Breathalyzer Tests?
Breathalyzer tests are used to determine the amount of alcohol in the exhaled air. The measured breath alcohol content (BrAC) is then used to estimate blood alcohol content (BAC).
There are two types of breath tests:
A preliminary breath test (PBT) used at the arrest
An evidential breath test, such as a urine test or a blood test, used after the arrest to obtain admissible evidence of the driver’s BAC
1. A Preliminary Breath Test (PBT): The arresting officer uses a portable breathalyzer device to measure the driver’s BAC after the traffic stop. Its results can be used as evidence of probable cause, but they are not admissible as evidence of blood alcohol content.
2. Evidential Breath Test (EBT): This test is used to obtain evidence for court proceedings. It must be carried out following the Missouri Department of Health rules in order to be valid.
Breath test results reflecting a BAC of .08% or more for adults or .02% for minors will result in a driver’s license suspension. The period depends on your prior DWI convictions. The arresting officer will hand you a Notice of Suspension/Revocation of Driving Privilege (Form 2385) and, if your license is taken, a temporary 15-day driving permit. If you refuse the test, there’s going to be an automatic one-year license revocation.
Besides administrative penalties, you may be charged with DWI if your BAC exceeds the legal Blood alcohol limit in Missouri.
The Consequences of a Breathalyzer Test Refusal
A breathalyzer or chemical test refusal warrants an automatic driver’s license suspension for one year if you haven’t had a previous DWI conviction. This is known as chemical revocation.
Refusing a breath test does not mean you will avoid criminal charges. The court can issue a warrant for a forcible test, which denies the driver a right to refuse a breath test. Also, the refusal itself may be used as an indication of guilt and thus warrant further proceedings.
During the one-year chemical revocation period, you may be able to obtain a limited driving privilege (LDP), also known as a restricted driving privilege, to travel to pre-approved places and situations such as work and medical appointments. To qualify for an LDP, you will be required to install an ignition interlock device (IID) in the vehicle you’ll be using.
When you get your driver’s license back, you’ll have to pay a reinstatement fee of $43 to the Missouri Department of Revenue and must complete a SATOP (Substance Abuse Traffic Offender Program). With two or more alcohol or drug-related convictions or arrests on your record, you’ll also have to install an ignition interlock device.