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Senate committee passes bill to lower BAC level

February 02, 2000
By: Dan Shaw
State Capital Bureau
Links: SB 934

JEFFERSON CITY - A bill lowering the legal blood alcohol level for motorists passed a Senate committee Wednesday, despite the objections of two women senators.

Sen. Harold Caskey, D- Butler, brought the bill lowering the punishable BAC level for drivers from .10% to .08% before the Senate Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence committee.

"I think the effort is on the part of the legislature to deliver the message to the state of Missouri that DWI's no longer will be tolerated," Caskey said.

Sen. Betty Sims, R-St. Louis County, expressed discontent with the open container portion of the bill, saying that a BAC level of .08 could be obtained by consuming things other than alcoholic beverages.

"We're going to say to the citizens of the state of Missouri you can't have amaretto in your cheesecake."

Missouri does not currently have a statewide open container law. Instead, there is an anti-consumption law which permits police to pull over a person who is seen drinking while driving.

Caskey said another important reason for the bill is it brings the state within federal guidelines on drinking and driving. He voiced warnings that Missouri would not get $6 million in additional federal highway construction money if its laws were not in compliance.

Just last year, however, Caskey successfully delayed Senate action on a similar proposal until it was too late for legislative approval.

This year, Gov. Mel Carnahan made the issue a top item in his legislative agenda.

Under this legislation, drivers caught with a BAC level above .08 would have six points assessed against their license. If the person was involved in an accident, however, they would face a DWI charge.

Other portions of the bill would allow prosecutors to seek five years jail time or 30 days community service for second-time offenders. After this, the penalty doubles for all subsequent violations.

The bill does not contain one of the governor's major recommendations -- a felony conviction for first time offenders with BAC levels higher than .15%.