The Firm

Criminal Law Glossary

Following is a list of terms related to DWI law

Absorption rate

The rate at which alcohol enters the blood stream. This can be affected by the amount of food consumed, biological factors and type of beverage.

Administrative license revocation (also administrative license suspension)

Confiscation of driver’s license immediately upon refusal of a breath/blood test, or testing above the legal limit for breath/blood alcohol concentration.


An announcement by either the prosecutor or defense to make some request of the judge (for example, to continue the case, set it for motions hearings, or a bench or jury trial) or to inform the judge of some fact or circumstance related to the case (for example, the defense wishes to inform


A criminal proceeding at which the defendant is officially called before the judge, informed of the offense charged in the complaint, information, or indictment, and asked to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. In Missouri courts, formal reading of the charges can be waived by the Defendant.


If you’re under arrest, then you are being legally detained by a police officer and are not free to leave.

the judge that the defendant would like to withdraw a former plea of not guilty and enter a plea of guilty pursuant to a plea agreement.)

Blood Alcohol Content (“BAC”)

Blood alcohol content is the amount of alcohol present in a 100 milliliter (mL) volume of blood. For example 80 mg is 0.08 grams, 0.08 grams of alcohol in 100 mLs is written as 0.08%. In other words, 80 mg% is equal to 0.08% which is equal to 80 mg/dL (deciliter; 100 mLs). This value can also be described as 0.08 BAC.

Blood Test

A laboratory test that directly measures the percentage of alcohol content in the blood drawn.


A promise to appear in court, which often includes a guarantee of money, and which is required for a person who has been arrested to get out of jail while waiting to resolve the case. (Sometimes called bail or a bail bond.)

Breathalyzer or breathalyzer

A machine used by law enforcement to measure a driver’s BAC.

Burn-off Rate or “Elimination Rate”

The rate at which alcohol in the body is metabolized. This varies depending on age, weight, medical conditions, frequency of alcohol consumption, and other factors.


The formal statement that details what the arrested person is accused of doing. A charge may be brought by an information, which is a sworn statement filed in court by a prosecutor; or by an indictment, which is filed by a grand jury.


In Missouri, in order to be “convicted” of a crime, the defendant must either plead guilty or be found guilty after a trial, PLUS, the judge or jury must impose a jail or prison sentence, a fine, or a combination of jail or prison and a fine. Only when a sentence has been imposed is there a “conviction” under Missouri law.


The person who is accused of committing a crime.


DWI is defined as driving or operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both.


There is no separate offense for driving or operating a motor vehicle under the influence. In Missouri, DWI and DUI are the same thing. As a result, drunk driving charges are filed as DWI, not DUI.


Testimony, physical objects, or other items that either the prosecutor or the defense wishes to introduce in court during a hearing or a trial.

Field Sobriety Test or “FST”

A test of physical and mental coordination used to provide the police officer with an objective basis to determine whether a driver may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Field sobriety tests are usually performed roadside shortly after an officer stops a driver. Field sobriety tests include the horizontal gaze nystagmus (“HGN”) test, walking heel-to-toe in a straight line, standing on one foot, the finger to nose test (tilting the head back with eyes closed and touching the tip of the nose with the index finger), the Romberg test (tilting the head back with eyes closed and estimating when 30 seconds have expired), the finger count, reciting the alphabet, and counting backwards.  Only the HGN test, the walk and turn test, and one leg stand test are scientifically validated predictors of intoxication.

Information and Indictment

Two types of documents that may be used to state the charge or charges against the defendant.

Ignition Interlock Device (IID)

An ignition interlock device (IID) is a type of breath alcohol analyzer connected to your vehicle’s ignition. If the device registers your BAC as being higher than the limit imposed, usually 0.020, then you will not be able to start your car’s motor.

Missouri Implied Consent Law

In 1964, Missouri passed the state’s first “Implied Consent” law. Under that law, everyone who operates a motor vehicle in Missouri impliedly consents to giving a blood, breath, saliva or urine sample to determine the alcohol content of their blood if arrested upon reasonable grounds to believe they were driving a motor vehicle while in an intoxicated or drugged condition. Failure to take the test results in the revocation of the driver’s license for one year.

Not Guilty

Either a plea of not guilty by the defendant, or a verdict of not guilty from a judge or jury after a trial. A verdict of not guilty means that the defendant is considered under the law to have not committed the crime charged.

MADD or Mothers Against Drunk Driving

MADD is a national nonprofit organization whose goal is to reduce incidences of DWI through tougher laws and education outreach.

Miranda rights

The formal advisement commonly given to someone arrested prior to questioning. These rights include the right to remain silent, the right to have a lawyer present before answering questions, a warning that the driver’s statements can be used against them, and the right to stop answering questions at any time.

Open container law: A law making it illegal to have an open container of alcohol in a vehicle.


Either a plea of guilty by the defendant, or a verdict of guilty from a judge or jury after a trial. A plea or verdict of guilty means that the defendant is considered under the law to have committed the crime charged.

Grand Jury

Twelve citizens chosen from the community who hear evidence presented by the prosecutor and then decide whether there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed. Grand jury meetings are held in private and are not open to the public.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test

One of the three standardized field sobriety tests (SFST). Nystagmus is an involuntary jerking of the eyes caused by alcohol intoxication. Horizontal gaze nystagmus is assessed by lack of smooth eye tracking, distinct jerking at maximum eye angle, and onset of jerking prior to 45-degree angle.

Ignition Interlock Device

A device installed in a vehicle that prevents it from starting if a breath test detects a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over a preset limit.

(Petit) Jury

Twelve citizens chosen from the community who are asked questions to determine if they can be fair, who hear the evidence in a trial and decide what to believe, whether to vote guilty or not guilty, and sometimes decide a punishment.

Preliminary Hearing

A court proceeding where a judge hears evidence to decide whether there is probable cause to believe that a crime was committed and that the Defendant committed it. If arrested for a felony, the defendant has a right to a preliminary hearing unless he/she waives that right, or unless the prosecutor takes the case to a grand jury.

Probable cause

Probable cause is another standard that applies to all kinds of criminal cases: It’s the measure by which judges evaluate arrests. There’s probable cause for an arrest if the facts support an objective belief that the suspect has committed a crime. So, after pulling you over, but before arresting you for DUI, a police officer must have probable cause to believe that you were too impaired to drive.


An alternative to a fine, jail time, or prison time. The judge may set conditions of probation, and the probation may be supervised by the court or by a probation officer. Violation of probation may result in the revocation of probation and having to pay a fine or spend time in jail or prison.


The lawyer for the State of Missouri.

Reasonable suspicion

Reasonable suspicion is a general criminal law concept that also applies to driving under the influence case. It requires that officers have an objectively reasonable basis for suspecting criminal activity before detaining someone. It’s a standard that’s lower than probable cause (discussed above). Before pulling someone over, an officer needs only a reasonable suspicion that the motorist has violated the law. An officer can pull you over, for example, after witnessing you swerve across the road, drift in and out of a lane, or commit some other traffic violation.

Rising alcohol defense

A defense to DUI charges based upon the claim that a driver was not under the influence when he or she was driving, but that their BAC rose to that level after arrest because alcohol was still being absorbed.


The length of time in prison or in jail that is imposed on the defendant by the judge upon a finding of guilty. In some cases, the sentence is set by the jury. For some crimes, the sentence can be a fine instead of time in jail, or the defendant can be sentenced to both prison or jail, and a fine.  In a DWI case, a Defendant who is charged as a prior, persistent, aggravated, chronic, or habitual offender can only be sentenced by the judge.

Sobriety checkpoints or roadblocks

The act of setting up roadblocks in a particular location for a particular time period and systematically stopping vehicles to investigate drivers for possible DUI.


An SR-22 is a document that verifies that someone has automobile insurance. (The “SR” stands for “safety responsibility.”) An insurance company typically prepares the SR-22 and files it with the Missouri department of revenue. (DOR). The SR-22 is not an insurance policy; it is evidence that the driver has a policy.

Substance Awareness Traffic Offenders Program  (“SATOP”)

The SATOP program is a state certified program. Generally, a driver who has lost his or her driving privileges for blowing over the legal limit or refusing a chemical test must complete this program in order to reinstate their driving privileges following the suspension or revocation period. It is also required where the driver received a conviction for DWI, BAC, or certain other alcohol-related traffic offense, or when ordered as a condition of probation.

SATOP is a multi-step process with each portion defined by State requirements. The prices are also set by the state and cannot be changed by the provider. The charge for a screening is currently set at $375.00.

A screening consists of individual interviews between the counselor and the offender, as well as a driving record check, completion of a computerized testing instrument, and a check of the BAC level at the time of the offense. With all of this information, especially the individual interview, a recommendation is made to the appropriate level of education or treatment for each individual.

There are four treatment levels, each of which has an additional fee and treatment requirements.

Offender Education Program (OEP) $200

SATOP’s Offender Education Program (OEP – Level I) is a 10-hour education course designed for lower risk, first-time offenders. The goal is to help these drivers understand the choices they made that led to their intoxication and arrest. The course is premised on the idea that education is key to helping first-time offenders take responsibility for their actions.

Weekend Intervention Program (WIP – Level II) $467.45

The WIP is a 48 hour on-site education and intervention program designed for the individual who has had two DWI offenses or for whom alcohol and/or other drugs are becoming problematic. State assistance is available to pay for this class for Missouri residents who wish to apply and who meet specific financial guidelines.

Clinical Intervention Program (CIP – Level III) $1067.42

For those individuals with numerous DWI offenses, or for whom alcohol and / or other drugs are negatively impacting their lives, this 50 hour outpatient counseling program is designed to assist them in defining their life issues, and in working toward sobriety. State assistance is available to pay for this class for Missouri residents who wish to apply and who meet specific financial guidelines.

Serious and Repeat Offender Program (SROP – Level IV) $1500.00

Individuals who have previously received treatment for drug and/or alcohol problems or who have severe dependency symptoms are referred to this 75 hour outpatient treatment program. No state assistance is currently available through NDS for this program.

Suspended Imposition of Sentence (SIS)

A suspended imposition of sentence (“SIS”) is essentially a probation period (with the possibility of avoiding a conviction) following a plea or finding of guilty. For example, if a person pleads guilty to a Class B misdemeanor charge of DWI and receives a 24 month SIS, the Court is requiring the defendant to stay out of trouble for the next 24 months, and to complete all required conditions of probation. If the defendant does so, the defendant avoids a criminal conviction and the record is sealed. This disposition will not appear on the defendant’s driving record. If, on the other hand, the defendant violates probation and his or her probation is revoked, the DWI will be converted into a conviction and it will now appear on the defendant’s criminal record and driving record.

Suspended Execution of Sentence (SES)

A suspended execution of sentence (“SES”) is a conviction with a stay on all or part of the imposed jail or prison sentence and/or fine. In other words, if a judge sentences the defendant to 90 days in jail, but then says that he or she will not order the execution of the sentence and instead places the defendant on probation, this is an SES disposition. If the Defendant violates the conditions of probation, the judge can order that the sentence be executed and Defendant goes to jail for 90 days.

Voir Dire

The process of questioning potential jurors to determine if they can be fair.


To voluntarily give up a right.

Zero tolerance

Commonly used to describe laws that make it illegal to operate a vehicle with any detectable amount of alcohol. Zero tolerance typically applies to minors that have not reached the age for legally consuming alcohol. In Missouri, the limit for persons under 21 is 0.02 percent for purposes of suspending or revoking the driver’s license.