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Gov. Nixon details possible changes to state DWI laws

Wednesday, December 9, 2009 | 2:02 p.m. CST; updated 2:07 p.m. CST, Wednesday, December 9, 2009

COLUMBIA – Gov. Jay Nixon promoted legislation that would overhaul the way Missouri handles drunken driving cases during stops in Hannibal, St. Louis County and Cape Girardeau on Wednesday. 

The legislation will strive to eliminate loopholes that block prosecutions and ensure that DWI offenses are accurately recorded and tracked. The solutions the governor outlined could be included in legislation sponsored by state Reps. Bryan Stevenson, R-Joplin, and Rachel Bringer, D-Palmyra.

According to analysis by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, in 2006, 29 percent of those who are arrested in Missouri for DWI avoid conviction.

“There are simply too many gaps in our current system,” Nixon said in a news release. "The way we handle drunken-driving cases in Missouri is broken ... We have a duty to protect Missouri families by improving every aspect of DWI enforcement."

Another Post-Dispatch report Monday stated that a person is injured or killed by a drunken driver every hour and 42 minutes in Missouri. 

Some of the legislative solutions promoted by Nixon include:

  • Requiring DWI offenders with a blood-alcohol level of 0.15 or above and drivers who refuse to submit to a blood-alcohol test to be charged in state court;
  • Creating stricter penalties for offenders with a blood-alcohol level of 0.15 and above (under current Missouri law, 0.08 is the presumed level of intoxication);
  • Making it a crime for a driver to refuse to submit to a blood-alcohol test;
  • Expanding the use of ignition-interlock devices to cases of drivers with a blood-alcohol level of 0.15 and above or drivers who refuse to submit to a blood-alcohol test;
  • Not allowing DWI offenders to have their records expunged after 10 years without a repeat offense;
  • Requiring all jurisdictions to enter DWI arrests and case information into the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Driving While Intoxicated Tracking System to better track DWI offenders and
  • Prohibiting the withdrawal of a guilty plea for a DWI for a defendant reaching the end of his or her probation under a suspended imposition of sentence.

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