Understanding the Missouri Zero Tolerance Law

Zero tolerance is often used to describe strict laws and policies that dictate harsh punishments for certain behaviors or actions. Learn more here.

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Kimberly J. Benjamin, Founder & Managing Attorney

June 25. 2022.

What Does Zero Tolerance Mean?


Underage drinking is a significant problem in the United States. Zero tolerance laws were created in an effort to curb DWI cases involving underage drivers. 

Zero tolerance is a term that has been used in the United States since the 1980s. Zero-tolerance policies aim to create an environment where every violation of specific rules will be punished with equal severity, regardless of circumstance or context. This often occurs in cases of underage drivers who are intoxicated or under the influence of drugs.

Although these laws have been around since the 1980s, they have become more popular since the 1990s and 2000s. Zero tolerance laws are also called “mandatory minimums” or “minimum sentences.” 

An experienced DWI attorney can help you if you are dealing with an alcohol-related traffic offense. Contact the Missouri DWI & Criminal Law Center for a free no-obligation consultation.

What Are Zero Tolerance Laws in Missouri?


Zero tolerance laws in Missouri have some of the strictest forms of punishment. The laws mandate an automatic license suspension for any person under 21 who is caught driving with even trace amounts of alcohol in their system. Other consequences include jail time, license revocation, and being sentenced to ignition interlocks.

Common factors a law enforcement officer may consider when dealing with Missouri DWI laws include:

  • Whether the driver was under the legal drinking age
  • Blood alcohol content level and whether is it excessive
  • Field sobriety tests
  • Missouri driver’s record
  • Occurred in commercial motor vehicle
  • Pending DWI charges
  • Prior alcohol-related offenses or DWI conviction

What Is the Legal Limit for Alcohol in Missouri?

For most drivers over age 21, the legal limit for blood alcohol content (BAC) in Missouri is 0.08%. The maximum blood alcohol content for commercial motorists with a commercial driver’s license (CDL) is 0.04%. A person with a BAC above these limits is legally intoxicated and can be charged with a DUI.

If you fail a blood or breath test or lose physical control of your vehicle while driving, ensure you hire a reputable Missouri DWI defense attorney to help you.


Missouri Legal Limit for Alcohol for Those Under Age 21

Since people under 21 years of age are prohibited from drinking alcohol, their legal limit is 0.020%. Having any alcohol in their system would be considered a criminal offense.

Contact a DWI lawyer in Grandview for an aggressive defense if you have been charged with an underage DWI.

Penalties for Breaking Zero Tolerance Laws Under Missouri DWI Laws


The first offense under Missouri’s zero-tolerance laws for anyone under 21 will result in a 30-day license suspension. A second DWI violation will lead to a 90-day suspension of your license. A third DWI offense will result in a 1 year suspension.

A person under 21 who registers a blood alcohol concentration level of 0.08 or more will also be subject to the same penalties and fines as someone over 21.

The penalties for DWI are as follows:

  1. A first DWI offense is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
  2. A second offense DWI is a Class E felony punishable by up to 4 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
  3. A third or subsequent DWI offense is a Class D felony punishable by up to 7 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

If an arresting officer takes you into custody for an alcohol-related traffic offense, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. By developing an excellent attorney-client relationship with a reliable DWI lawyer, you might be able to avoid license suspension or revocation due to any alcohol-related driving offense.

Automatic License Suspension After DWI Arrest

Aside from the criminal law aspect, a DWI triggers administrative penalties. As a result of your DWI arrest, the Missouri Department of Revenue (DOR) can suspend your license.

When you are arrested for a DWI in Missouri, the police usually take away your driver’s license and issue you a temporary paper permit that is valid for 15 days from the date of notice of suspension or revocation.

After the permit expires, the DOR will effectively suspend the driver’s license, even if the criminal case has not been tried or gets dismissed. To challenge an automatic suspension or revocation, you will need to request a hearing with the Department of Revenue to challenge it.

An experienced DWI attorney can help you with this process and hopefully avoid losing your driving privileges.


Importance of Hiring Criminal Defense Attorney for DWI in Missouri

If you or a loved one has been accused of underage drunk driving and want to avoid a driver’s license suspension, you should hire a criminal defense attorney in Missouri. A DWI lawyer in Independence, MO, can help you navigate the legal process, protect your rights, and defend your freedom.

Contact Kansas City DWI lawyers from the Missouri DWI & Criminal Law to book a free consultation.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


What Is a Zero Tolerance Offense?

Zero-tolerance policies require an automatic, predetermined punishment for a given offense. These policies are often used in schools and can negatively affect people because they don’t consider each individual case’s circumstances.


Who Came up With the Zero Tolerance Policy?

In the United States, zero-tolerance policies were first introduced in the 1980s to respond to growing drug use among youth. Subsequently, they were adopted by schools, universities, and workplaces. As of today, there is no federal law that requires the adoption of zero-tolerance policies, but many states have passed their own laws which do so.


Are Zero Tolerance Laws Effective?

There are many cases where these policies are ineffective or even counterproductive because they do not consider the offense’s severity or whether it was intentional. 

A DUI defense attorney can use this to help you wage an aggressive defense. The right law firm can also provide information and advice.

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