Mississippi addresses the act of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol with a myriad of criminal and administrative penalties. This crime is called Operating Under the Influence or OUI.
Drivers in Mississippi who want to avoid being charged with and found guilty of OUI need to know what limits that the state places on blood alcohol content or BAC levels. They also need to understand the common punishments that Mississippi courts mete out for people found guilty of OUI.
OUI in Mississippi
Operating under the influence in Mississippi is defined as having a blood alcohol content level of 0.08 percent or more. This is the per se definition that applies to drivers of privately owned motor vehicles who are at least 21 years of age.
The definition also clarifies OUI as driving under the influence of any illegal drug or substance that impairs a person’s ability to drive safely and with prudent caution. The definition also extends to using any drug or intoxicant or intoxicating liquor.
Drivers who hold commercial drivers’ licenses or CDLs are held to a stricter BAC level than regular drivers. The BAC limit for CDL drivers is lower than 0.04 percent.
Unlike other states, Mississippi does not impose separate penalties for enhanced or aggravated OUIs. Even if drivers have BACs of 0.15 percent or higher, which in other states warrants harsher legal penalties, they face the same criminal and administrative consequences as drivers whose BACs are 0.08 percent or higher.
Underage drivers in the state also are held to a different legal standard. Under the state’s zero-tolerance laws for underage drinking, drivers under the age of 21 can be arrested for OUI if their BAC is 0.02 percent or higher.
OUI Penalties in Mississippi
The penalties for OUI in Mississippi can include both civil fines and jail time. The punishments that a driver faces depend on factors like his or her prior OUI history. They also depend on the driver’s age and licensing status.
A first OUI conviction in Mississippi can garner a jail sentence of up to 48 hours and a fine of $250 to $1000. A second OUI conviction results in a jail term of one to five years and a fine of $2000 to $5000.
Second-time OUI offenders are also required to perform at least 10 hours of community service. First-time offenders can bypass their jail sentence by completing a non-adjudication program that involves finishing an alcohol safety program, using an ignition interlock device or IID for 120 days and paying all administrative fines and fees. The OUI conviction will still count as a valid offense if the person commits another OUI within the next 10 years.
The state does allow for several circumstances of OUI that merit harsher penalties. The first involves causing the injury or death of someone during the commission of the OUI. The driver can face up to 25 years in prison as well as the standard legal punishments for OUI.
If the driver has an underage passenger in the vehicle while driving intoxicated, he or she can face a separate charge of child endangerment. This conviction results in a fine of up to $1000 and a maximum of 12 months behind bars. If the child was injured or killed, the fine increases to $10,000, and the driver will be sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Underage drivers also face penalties if they are found guilty of OUI in Mississippi. The punishments for underage OUI include a $250 fine and a 120-day license suspension for a first offense. A second offense carries a $500 fine and a one-year license suspension. Underage drivers convicted of a third OUI in the state must pay a fine of $1000, have their licenses suspended until they turn 21 and complete a drug or alcohol treatment program.
Drivers’ license Sanctions
OUI convictions are also typically accompanied by sanctions of the offenders’ drivers’ licenses. The sanctions reflect the number of OUIs on a person’s record.
A first OUI conviction leads to a suspension of 120 days while a second conviction results in a suspension of one year. A third OUI conviction will garner a three-year suspension of one’s license while a fourth conviction leads to a suspension of 10 years.
During the license suspension period, drivers can ask the court to issue them a restricted license. The restriction includes having to install an IID on all of the driver’s vehicles and paying all of the fees and fines for the OUI conviction.
The driver also has to complete an alcohol safety education program. Vehicles not outfitted with an IID during the suspension period will be immobilized by the court.
Mississippi Implied Consent Law
Mississippi is like many states and uses an implied consent law to get drivers to comply with a law enforcement officer’s request for a chemical test to determine their BAC. By law, drivers must provide when asked and with probable cause a sample of their breath or blood.
If they refuse, they can have their drivers’ licenses suspended for up to 90 days. Their licenses can also be seized by the law enforcement officer. Someone with an OUI already on his or her record faces having his or her license suspended for up to one year.
Mississippi strictly outlaws the act of operating under the influence. Drivers found guilty of this offense face serving time in jail, paying steep fines and losing their privilege to drive.
They cannot refuse testing for BAC under the state’s implied consent laws. Drivers of all ages can lose their licenses and pay fines for refusing to submit to chemical testing with probable cause.