Is a DUI Considered a Felony in Missouri?

If a police officer pulls you over while you’re operating a motor vehicle in an intoxicated or drugged condition, you’ll likely face a DWI offense. Per Missouri law, lesser criminal offenses can result in community service, having to complete a DWI court program, or short stints in county jail. Being convicted of a felony DWI charge will likely mean you’ll serve a prison term.

Overcoming DWI charges means enlisting the help of bona fide legal professionals. Firms like Kirsch & Kirsch, LLC are here to answer the call. We know the ins and outs of Missouri DWI laws and have represented people accused of intoxication-related traffic offenses from all walks of life. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you.

What Are DWI Offenses?

A Missouri DWI is a criminal charge. Prosecuting attorneys in Missouri take these charges seriously, so anyone accused of driving while intoxicated would do well to hire a defense lawyer. Being unprepared to defend yourself against DWI charges can result in felony convictions, which often lead to life-altering consequences.

When a person operates a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they can be charged with a DWI. The legal limit for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) in Missouri is 0.08%. However, a DWI charge escalates to felony status with repeat offenses or involvement in a serious accident resulting in injury or death.

Court Issued Criminal Penalties

Felony DWI charges can bring about severe legal penalties. These include lengthy prison terms and hefty fines. Missouri courts see DWIs as egregious offenses, particularly for chronic offenders—a fact that sentencing ranges reflect. Repeat DWI offenders tend to face escalating penalties, with the classification as a persistent or habitual offender looming. 

Convictions can range from Class B misdemeanors to Class A felonies. Each charge comes with legal ramifications. Whether the defendant pleads guilty or not, prosecutors are encouraged to pursue DWI convictions in the name of public safety and deterring future offenses.

Fatal Accidents and DWI Involving Injuries

DWI offenses in Missouri that cause a fatality or a serious physical injury draw harsh sentences. Individuals whose intoxication results in the death of another can be charged with crimes from  involuntary manslaughter to murder. A conviction can lead to life imprisonment, especially if the accused is a prior offender.

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Class B Misdemeanors Felony DWIs and Offender Classes

Although some DWI incidents may initially be charged as Class B misdemeanors, it’s not uncommon that these charges get elevated felonies in Missouri. Some of the common charges and resulting punishments for these offenses include: 

  • Class E felony- A persistent offender: Up to four years in prison
  • Class D felony- A aggravated offender: Up to seven years
  • Class C felony/chronic offender: Three to Ten years
  • Class B felony/habitual offender: Five to 15 years
  • Class A felony: 10 to 30 years or life imprisonment

DWIs and Felony Offender Classes

Missouri law meticulously classifies DWI offenders within its statutes. The felony offender classes and related details are as follows: 

  • Prior offenders have at least one prior DWI and are charged with a Class A misdemeanor.
  • A persistent offender has two or more previous DWIs or one DWI involving the injury or death of another person. 
  • An aggravated offender is facing their fourth DWI, or having at least two separate intoxication-related traffic offenses that led to the death or injury of another person.
  • A chronic offender has been found guilty of at least four previous DWI-related offenses, has been found guilty of three or more DWI offenses with at least one including the death or injury of another, was guilty of two or more DWIs where both incidents caused the death or injury of someone.
  • A habitual offender has been found guilty of five or more previous offenses, four or more with one causing death or injury, or three or previous convictions where at least two people were killed or injured.

Penalties for DWI

Generally, a felony DWI conviction will be more heavily penalized than a misdemeanor, especially when having been convicted before. The first two convictions involving excessive blood alcohol content of .08% or greater are counted as misdemeanors, with the third and subsequent resulting in felony charges.

DWI charges in Missouri worsen when someone suffers a physical injury and when prior convictions are involved. As seen in the felony offender classes, prior felony DWI convictions are regarded as a heinous brand of criminal negligence and tend to inspire the full wrath of the legal system.

Other Considerations for DWI in Missouri

Missouri law views any intoxication-related traffic offense or an alcohol-related traffic offense as a serious matter. Anyone found to be in physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance could be charged with a DWI. The Missouri Department of Motor Vehicles wants their roads free of criminal negligence.

Helping Clients Navigate Missouri DWI Cases

The legal complexities of felony DWI cases necessitate the presence of appropriate legal agents for a successful defense. Understanding DWI laws doesn’t happen overnight. An experienced lawyer will know how to deal with these situations. Their presence is often the key factor in minimizing the impact of DWI charges and preserving your rights and freedom.

DWI charges in Missouri are often formidable causes of stress, but they don’t have to result in convictions. You don’t have to fight for your rights alone. The law provides you with the right of representation. Take advantage of your rights by securing the services of DWI lawyers like Kirsch & Kirsch, LLC. We’ve helped others escape these situations, and we can help you, too.