Missouri criminal law: driving in a drugged condition

In January 2013, St. Louis County, Mo., Police stopped a 29-year-old Dittmer man one evening while he was driving near Grant’s Farm, south of St. Louis, according to the Sunset Hills-Crestwood Patch. In March, the defendant was charged with driving under the influence of illegal drugs, specifically opiates, amphetamine and methamphetamine, reportedly as evidenced by blood test results.

In Missouri, anyone who operates a vehicle “in an intoxicated or drugged condition” may be charged with “driving while intoxicated” or DWI.

In this particular case, the man was charged as a persistent offender, having reportedly had two previous DWI-related convictions. Status as a persistent offender can result in a longer prison sentence and being charged with a DWI after two other, similar convictions is a DWI felony.

Missouri driving while drugged law

In Missouri, a person can be charged with DWI for driving while impaired by alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription medication, over-the-counter medication or any combination of these. Driving in a drugged condition has been found by Missouri courts when a defendant’s ability to drive was at all impaired.

Evidence that may be important in supporting a conviction for DWI drugs includes:

  • Erratic or reckless driving behavior
  • Blood or other chemical tests positive for the presence of drugs in the body
  • Observation or smell of drugs in the defendant’s car or on his or her person
  • Involvement in a motor vehicle accident
  • Possession of drug equipment
  • Physical signs of drug intoxication like impaired speech or mobility
  • Confession or witness testimony

According to the Missouri Department of Transportation, penalties for a DWI conviction can include:

  • Jail time
  • Driver’s license suspension or revocation
  • Fines
  • Costs and expenses
  • Ignition interlock installation in vehicle (device that requires a clean breath test for the car to start)

The combination and severity of sanctions varies depending on the person’s previous conviction record.

Legal counsel can be crucial

The punishments for drugged driving are severe in Missouri. It behooves anyone arrested for or charged with a Missouri DWI based on drugs to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to build a vigorous defense. A knowledgeable defense lawyer will carefully investigate the circumstances surrounding the traffic stop, arrest and any chemical testing to determine that legal and appropriate procedures were followed at every step. Legal counsel will also know how to effectively examine any scientific experts or law enforcement officers, should the case make it to trial.