Reps: License Suspension Not Enough for DWI Offenders

Although the number of DWI arrests in Missouri dropped significantly between 2012 and 2013 — from 29,560 to 25,594 incidents — many in the state say that more needs to be done to curb repeat drunk driving offenders. In many cases, drivers in the state are only subject to license suspension; they may not spend any time in custody. Advocates for new legislation want to change that, requiring additional severe penalties for those with multiple DWI charges.

Some new proposals would actually require offenders with two or more convictions to obtain new license plates that identify them as a public health hazard. That way, Missouri police officers would have the right to pull them over for reasonable suspicion, even if the motorist is not necessarily displaying signs of intoxicated driving. It is not clear whether that is truly a possibility under existing legal protections. This type of license plate system has already been employed in nearby Ohio.

State representatives say they are tired of repeat offenders receiving only a license suspension or reduced sentence in connection with multiple DWI charges. One man, a six-time offender during a period of 17 years, had been jailed and ordered to attend rehabilitation. That man was released in 2011 on probation, according to news reports. Representatives say that such examples, along with the arrival of significant drinking holidays such as St. Patrick’s Day, have inspired them to crack down on multiple DWI offenders.

Criminal defendants who have been arrested for drunk driving are not automatically considered guilty, even if they have been formally charged. A Missouri attorney may be able to explain more about defendants’ legal rights and responsibilities. Multiple DWI offenders may have special legal considerations, even if the license-plate legislation is not approved.

Source: KQFX, “Repeat DWI offenders prompt new Missouri proposal” Jillian Fertig, Mar. 11, 2014