It Can Still Be Considered Drunk Driving Even If They Weren’t Over the Legal Limit

Drunk driving is fully avoidable and a clear act of irresponsibility by the driver, which constitutes negligence in legal terms. However, if you’re involved in an accident in Missouri with someone who was drinking, you should be aware that it may still be considered drunk driving, even if the driver isn’t over the legal limit. This can be crucial when filing your personal injury claim and determining your compensation if the other driver was impaired.


Missouri has Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) laws, prohibiting driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and regulating legal Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) levels. Various strict criminal penalties can apply to a drunk driver. Victims of drunk driving accidents may pursue civil penalties to cover the costs of medical expenses and long-term disabilities resulting from a collision.

Under Missouri DWI law, a BAC of 0.08% or over is enough to convict a driver of a DWI charge, and no other evidence of impairment is needed. An aggravated DWI is issued when a driver has a BAC level of 0.15% or higher, leading to enhanced penalties and jail time. Additionally, Missouri’s zero tolerance law means anyone under the legal drinking age of 21 is subject to a stringent BAC level of 0.02%.


If you are involved in a car accident, law enforcement will subject both drivers to a BAC test at the scene. A driver can refuse this, but at the cost of automatically having their license suspended for a year. This is known as a chemical revocation.

If you spoke with the other driver after the accident, you may be able to detail their behavior and mannerisms in your testimony. This can include information about the other driver’s appearance, posture, and speech if any of these suggest impairment.

These details can be corroborated by the attending police officer and other eyewitnesses of the crash. Be sure to get the contact information of anyone who saw the accident occur and can support your claims.

Relevant testimony may also include accounts of how the other driver was operating their vehicle before the accident. Whether their driving was erratic or otherwise out of the ordinary may be corroborated by video surveillance in the area.

To prove the drunk driver’s negligence, you’ll need the assistance of experienced drunk driving accident lawyers, like the team at Cofman Townsley in St. Louis. We will obtain the police report and conduct an exhaustive investigation of the crash. This can involve interviewing witnesses who observed any erratic behavior suggesting intoxication and examining available surveillance tapes for video evidence.

During litigation, your attorneys may obtain credit card statements and cellphone records to prove what the driver was doing before the accident.


A driver can be convicted of drunk driving even with a Blood Alcohol Concentration level lower than 0.08%, mainly if they were involved in a crash resulting in harm to another individual and consumed alcohol beforehand. This is because, as a study in the National Library of Medicine shows, even low levels of blood alcohol concentration can negatively affect one’s driving performance. Even a single drink, and the resultant low level of impairment, can have detrimental effects if that person gets behind the wheel.

For example, the study found that drivers may begin to unintentionally drift or weave in their lane with a BAC of only 0.02%, with a sharp increase in difficulty driving in a straight line starting at 0.05%.

Furthermore, the study noted that while drivers with a BAC of 0.08% and higher can usually self-identify themselves as impaired, drivers with BACs between 0.05% and 0.08% usually cannot. This makes it even more dangerous for these drivers to then get on the road.

If you sustained injuries in a car accident caused by a drunk driver’s negligence, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible for a consultation to file a personal injury claim. If you’re in Missouri or Southern Illinois, the St. Louis personal injury lawyers at Cofman Townsley can help you file a claim within the statute of limitations, which is five years from the date of the collision.


There are many physical, emotional, and financial challenges to overcome when dealing with injuries caused by a drunk driver’s negligence. You deserve the support of a skilled personal injury attorney who understands state laws and has previous experience handling similar cases.

Cofman Townsley has more than 50 years of experience helping injured individuals and their families in the St. Louis area. We can ease the stress you’re dealing with by ensuring you understand your rights and will fight to help you win the maximum compensation you deserve. If you’ve been in an accident caused by a drunk driver, contact us to schedule a no-obligation, free consultation.

Originally published August 23, 2021. Updated April 11, 2024.