Three strikes in Missouri drunken driving cases and you go to prison. Or not, says the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. A Missouri Supreme Court ruling over a sloppy revision of the drunken driving law a decade ago seems sure to spare some offenders from prison, and to shorten prospective jail terms for others. Under Missouri law, a third DWI conviction is a felony, punishable by up to four years in prison; a second conviction is a misdemeanor that can bring a one-year jail term. The high court ruled March 4 that if a DWI conviction was in a municipal court, with a suspended sentence, it cannot be counted because of an ambiguity in the statute.
“We are hoping the legislature will do something extraordinary – fix a problem in the same year it arises,” said Michael Boland of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers. The decision “has put law enforcement, courts, probation and parole in a terrible fix.” A 1998 DWI law contains one passage allowing a municipal court case to be used to enhance future sentences, and a different passage forbidding it. About 1,100 inmates are in prison now for repeat DWIs, the state says.