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Stopped for DUI in Mississippi: 6 Things to Know

Stopped for DUI in Mississippi: 6 Things to Know

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Mississippi has joined the growing number of states to make ignition interlock devices mandatory for drivers convicted of DWI. In 2006, there was only one state in the country using the devices; in 2014, 42 states required ignition interlock devices. Organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving have campaigned hard in favor of the devices. In order to get a restricted driver’s license after a DWI conviction in Mississippi, drivers must have the device installed on any vehicles they drive. Statistics around the country show that the devices reduce repeat offenses by as much as 45 percent. A driver must blow into a device that measures blood alcohol concentration (BAC). The device is also set to require “running re-tests.” This requires a retest to confirm the driver has not become impaired and did not rely on another person to help start the car. The cost is usually under $100 per month, in addition to an installation fee.

If you are stopped in Mississippi on suspicion of DUI, here six more key points to know:

1.     Implied consent and sobriety testing 

What’s the difference between a field sobriety test–in which a driver has to walk or perform other actions ordered by a police officer–and a chemical test of blood, urine or breath to determine a person’s BAC? Criminal attorneys say the biggest difference has to do with the state’s Implied Consent Law. Under that law, Mississippi drivers who accept a driver’s license consent in advance to a chemical test if requested by a law enforcement officer with probable cause to suspect the driver is impaired. The law does not apply to the field sobriety test even though it is widely requested by police officers as a way to determine whether a motorist is impaired.  Mississippi attorneys who specialize in DWI defense say drivers are free to refuse to submit to a field sobriety test without any penalty whatsoever, and generally recommend that course of action, saying the test is unreliable.

2.     Refusing the chemical test

Declining to submit to a chemical test is no different than violating any other law in Mississippi. The penalty for refusing the chemical test is a 6-month driver’s license suspension. An ignition interlock device cannot be used until after the first month of the suspension. DWI defense attorneys say refusing the test generally doesn’t affect the prosecution’s case. Even without a BAC reading, drivers are routinely convicted on the testimony from the police officer and the fact that the driver refused the chemical test.

3.     Expect to be on camera

It’s not always obvious when a police officer has the camera on his dashboard filming a arrest, or when a miniature camera is part of the officer’s uniform. But the practice is becoming more and more common in Mississippi and elsewhere and DUI defense attorneys say drivers should assume the stop is being filmed and act accordingly. That means saying and doing as little as possible. Criminal attorneys say drivers should be courteous and provide registration and proof of insurance when requested. But, it’s OK – and actually smart – not to engage in conversation or to submit to a search of your vehicle.  You should, however, get out of the car if the officer orders.  It’s perfectly acceptable to look like a statue in the video of the DWI stop – as long as you don’t look impaired.   

4.     More than .08 to worry about

Many people are familiar with the .08 BAC standard for adult drivers in Mississippi. If you register .08 or above, you will be arrested for DUI. But there are different BAC standards for other classes of drivers in the state. Commercial drivers, for example, are held to a stricter standard. If you have a commercial driver’s license you are subject to arrest once your BAC reaches .04. The law is even more restrictive for young drivers. The cutoff for drivers under the age of 21 is .02.

 5.     DUI penalties in Mississippi

A person convicted of a first-offense DWI in the state faces penalties that include up to 2 days in jail, a fine of up to $1,000 and a driver’s license suspension ranging between 3 months and a year. Community service and alcohol education can also be ordered at the discretion of the judge. For a second offense within 5 years, the potential jail time increases to a minimum of 5 days and a maximum of a year with a maximum penalty of $1,500. The driver’s license suspension is 2 years and between 10 days and 1 year of community service. A third offense in Mississippi becomes a felony, punishable by by up to 5 years in jail, a fine of up to $5,000 and a 5-year driver’s license suspension. Some of the license suspension terms can be reduced with the completion of alcohol education or rehabilitation programs.

6.  Total cost of a DUI in Mississippi

There are both the out-of-pocket costs and other costs that are not so easily measured. Between court fees and fines, bail, towing, the Mississippi Alcohol Education Safety Program and attorneys fees and car insurance, the cost could easily reach $15,000. And that’s for a first conviction – the costs increase significantly for subsequent convictions. But what about the cost of losing your job, and perhaps your apartment because you now have a conviction on your record? There are some professions that require licenses or permits that prohibit individuals with convictions, such as pilots and many healthcare positions.

This article is for informational purposes only. If you need legal advice, you should consult an attorney.

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