Today's Question: How can Missouri laws change to more effectively deal with drunken driving?

Thursday, October 15, 2009 | 2:22 p.m. CDT; updated 8:48 p.m. CDT, Thursday, October 15, 2009

In response to an article the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran Sunday delving into the high number of St. Louis drivers who have repeatedly dodged convictions for driving while intoxicated, Gov. Jay Nixon announced Monday that the Missouri legislature would reform the state’s DWI laws by spring. Nixon began assembling a group of leaders to work on the revisions this week.

The second in a series, the article that caused Nixon to put revising DWI laws on the agenda revealed  a “culture of cutting deals” where St. Louis-area judges often decide not to convict motorists for driving drunk, even in cases of repeat offenders. The two most frequent plea deals are probation or replacing the DWI with the conviction of a less-serious traffic charge.

The practices mean Missouri’s Department of Revenue never gets the reports of alcohol-related transgressions, which if charged would automatically result in suspended licenses. Missouri law says that those who have gone to court for a DWI more than once can’t get special deals, but the Post-Dispatch report said the legislation is ignored. Drivers in question never see ramifications through their insurance costs, either.

Nixon said he wants to see increased transparency and consistency in DWI dealings throughout the state, but the governor hasn't offered any ideas about how laws will change specifically. Other legislators also see need for action: Rep. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur, said it is "absolutely critical;" and Rep. Walt Bivins, R-St. Louis County, said DWIs are “glossed over” in the legal system.

How can Missouri laws change to more effectively deal with drunken driving?

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