The Definitive Guide to Mississippi DUIs - Part 1
In this multi-part guide, we will walk through the crime of driving under the influence (DUI) as prosecuted in the state courts of Mississippi. (Yes, there are federal DUIs, but those are outside of the scope of this guide.) The guide will take multiple blog posts, because there is a lot of information to relay. This is NOT a lawyer's guide to DUIs in Mississippi. We’ve already written that, and it is published in the Encyclopedia of Mississippi Law. This guide is for citizens facing DUI charges in the State of Mississippi.
This part will focus on the basic legal obligations drivers have concerning sobriety on our roadways. Section 63-11-30 of the Mississippi Code is the statute that governs operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or other substance. The first subsection of 63-11-30 lays out exactly what a person can’t do, and we’ll spend time on that in this post.
The first subsection of 63-11-30 reads:
(1) It is unlawful for a person to drive or otherwise operate a vehicle within this state if the person:
(a) Is under the influence of intoxicating liquor;
(b) Is under the influence of any other substance that has impaired the person's ability to operate a motor vehicle;
(c) Is under the influence of any drug or controlled substance, the possession of which is unlawful under the Mississippi Controlled Substances Law; or
(d) Has an alcohol concentration in the person's blood, based upon grams of alcohol per one hundred (100) milliliters of blood, or grams of alcohol per two hundred ten (210) liters of breath, as shown by a chemical analysis of the person's breath, blood or urine administered as authorized by this chapter, of:
(i) Eight one-hundredths percent (.08%) or more for a person who is above the legal age to purchase alcoholic beverages under state law;
(ii) Two one-hundredths percent (.02%) or more for a person who is below the legal age to purchase alcoholic beverages under state law; or
(iii) Four one-hundredths percent (.04%) or more for a person operating a commercial motor vehicle.
So basically you can't be drunk or high while driving, or you are in violation of this statute. (1)(a) and (1)(d) deal with alcohol, while (1)(b) and (1)(c) cover being impaired by a substance other than alcohol.
More and more, we are starting to see DUI charges issued under (1)(b) and (1)(c). If a person is accused of driving while high on marijuana, he will be charged under (1)(b) and/or (1)(c). Same for cocaine, codeine cough syrup, etc. But still the most frequent types of DUI charges in Mississippi are alcohol-related, and fall under (1)(a) and (1)(d). DUI charges under (1)(a) are usually called “common law DUIs” to distinguish them from (1)(d) charges, which are supported by a blood alcohol content reading from a machine that analyzes a DUI suspect’s breath for alcohol content.
What is the purpose of common law DUI? Common law DUIs existed back before the technology was developed to somewhat accurately measure the amount of alcohol in a person’s bloodstream. They are still around because people can refuse to give a breath sample or may be physically unable to provide one, and because sometimes the testing machines are not available. In those instances, there is no machine reading for purposes of subsection (1)(d).
You’ll notice that the subparts of (1)(d) have different BAC levels for different types of drivers: regular adult drivers, drivers who are minors, and people who are driving commercial vehicles (think 18 wheelers and busses). That’s because minors aren’t supposed to be drinking at all, and because commercial vehicle drivers are behind the wheel of large vehicles that can do a lot of damage very quickly.
So that is the 10,000-foot view of the main portion of Mississippi’s most important DUI statute. In the next part, we’ll go into what DUI enforcement officers are taught about identifying potentially impaired drivers both before stopping the car and before asking the driver to exit the vehicle. Link to Part 2.