A loophole in Missouri’s drunk driving laws was not fixed by the state legislature during its session that ended Friday, putting thousands of DUI cases in jeopardy. That’s according to Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd. He said a typo means Missouri law requires that breathalyzers be calibrated to three different levels: 0.10 percent, 0.08 percent or 0.04 percent.
“The word ‘and’ replaced the word ‘or,’ in choosing those three alcohol-based substances to calibrate this equipment,” said Zahnd. “Because of that, during a 15-month period, the Missouri Supreme Court has now ruled that all three of those substances had to be used.”
The word “and” was in effect from December 30, 2012 to April 2014, impacting about 30,000 cases.
The Missouri Supreme Court’s decision included instruction on how state lawmakers should correct the error.
“Sadly, the legislature failed to follow that roadmap and to fix this problem. As a result, it’s very likely that thousands of drunk drivers will go free,” said Zahnd. “We’re not just talking about traditional DWI cases, which are bad enough in themselves. We’re talking about DWI-facilitated assaults and manslaughter cases. Cases literally where people have been seriously injured or even died.”
Zahnd says Governor Jay Nixon could call a special session or ask the Legislature to pass a measure during its veto session in September that would reverse the mistake. Hundreds of cases scheduled for trial before September could be thrown out on that technicality.
Dan Patterson, KWIX, contributed to this story