How Many DWIs Are a Felony in Missouri?
March 14, 2023
In Missouri, as in all states, it is illegal to drive a vehicle while intoxicated. A DWI in Missouri is defined as having a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) above 0.08%. BAC is a measure of how much alcohol is present in the blood, and it can be impacted by factors like the size of the person, how quickly they drink, what they drink, and time since their last drink.
Missouri holds those under 21 to an even stricter DWI standard: An even lower BAC level of 0.02%. Furthermore, Missouri also carries enhanced penalties for “aggravated DWI” for anyone having a BAC of 0.15% or higher.
Once you receive your third DWI charge (and any subsequent charges after), you go from being charged with a misdemeanor to being charged with a felony.
Felonies are very serious. Prison is on the table, as is losing many of the rights and privileges most Americans take for granted, like voting, gun ownership, and driving.
Felonies Are More Serious Charges, and You Need a Lawyer if You Are Charged With One
More serious crimes carry felony charges. Misdemeanors are typically reserved for non-violent offenses, like shoplifting, while felonies come into play when people are hurt or the perpetrator acted with ill intent.
Felonies carry punishments of imprisonment in state prison and can severely restrict your rights and opportunities, even after you have served your punishment. That is why it is crucial to hire a lawyer if you are charged with one, like felony DWI.
DWI Felonies Fall Into Various Classes in Missouri
Missouri Statute 577.010 spells out explicitly what occurs in terms of penalties as the number of charges or incidents of DWI increase:
Class E Felony
- The defendant is a persistent offender (third time);
- While driving while intoxicated, the defendant acts with criminal negligence to cause physical injury to another person.
A Class E Felony carries up to $10,000 in fines and a maximum four years in prison.
Class D Felony
- The defendant is an aggravated (four time) offender;
- While driving while intoxicated, the defendant acts with criminal negligence to cause physical injury to a law enforcement officer or emergency personnel; or
- While driving while intoxicated, the defendant acts with criminal negligence to cause serious physical injury to another person.
A Class D Felony carries up to $10,000 in fines and a maximum seven years in prison.
Class C Felony
- The defendant is a chronic (five-time) offender;
- While driving while intoxicated, the defendant acts with criminal negligence to cause serious physical injury to a law enforcement officer or emergency personnel; or
- While driving while intoxicated, the defendant acts with criminal negligence to cause the death of another person.
A Class C Felony carries up to $10,000 in fines and three to 10 years in prison.
Class B Felony
- The defendant is a habitual (six-time) offender;
- While driving while intoxicated, the defendant acts with criminal negligence to cause the death of a law enforcement officer or emergency personnel;
- While driving while intoxicated, the defendant acts with criminal negligence to cause the death of any person not a passenger in the vehicle operated by the defendant, including the death of an individual that results from the defendant’s vehicle leaving a highway, as defined in section 301.010, or the highway’s right-of-way;
- While driving while intoxicated, the defendant acts with criminal negligence to cause the death of two or more persons; or
- While driving while intoxicated, the defendant acts with criminal negligence to cause the death of any person while he or she has a blood alcohol content of at least eighteen-hundredths of one percent by weight of alcohol in such person’s blood;
A persistent offender DWI is a Class B Felony and carries five to 15 years in prison.
Class A Felony
Subsequent offenses can be charged as a Class A Felony, which carries a punishment of a term of not less than 10 years and not to exceed 30 years, or life imprisonment.
What is a “Persistent Felony Offender”?
In Missouri, a “persistent felony offender” is defined as someone who has been convicted of two or more felonies at different times.
If you are found to be a persistent offender and found guilty of a Class E, D, C or B Felony, you will be sentenced at the range of punishment for one class higher than what you were charged with. As is true of any crime, multiple DWIs in Missouri can get you labeled as a persistent offender and steepen your penalties.
DUI vs. DWI—Are These the Same Thing?
DWI stands for “Driving While Intoxicated.” This is the legal term used in Missouri; Missouri statutes and court proceedings will always use this term.
Other states have another category of offense: DUI, or “Driving Under the Influence.” And in everyday talk, most people use these terms interchangeably. However, if you are charged in Missouri, it will always be a charge of DWI.
What Makes for a Good Lawyer in a DWI Case?
When you are facing a DWI charge, it is crucial that you work with an attorney that has experience with DWI in Missouri.
- A defense attorney makes sure that your rights are upheld throughout the proceedings.
- A defense attorney has the experience to challenge the charges brought against you.
- A defense attorney can try to prevent or minimize the suspension of your license.
- A good DWI attorney can negotiate with the prosecution to try to reduce the fine and the sentence.
- A good DWI attorney can challenge the accuracy of the sobriety tests that were conducted.
It is important to remember that hiring a DWI defense attorney does not imply you are guilty. You hire a good DWI lawyer because everyone has rights, and you need to have your side of the story told. For example: Suppose you have two DWIs on record from when you were in your late teens/early 20s. But since then, you’ve sobered up and have had a clean driving record for 20 years. Then one day you attend a wedding, have a little too much to drink, and get a third DWI.
This is technically a felony, right? But this case feels different from a case where someone just gets three DWI in a row. While technically a felony, you might have extenuating circumstances.
If you or a loved one is facing a repeat DWI charge and prison time is on the line, the lawyers at Kirsch & Kirsch are the experienced team you want defending you. Contact them today.