When Does DWI Become a Felony?

Although a first-time DWI charge is normally a Class B misdemeanor, and even a second charge is a Class A misdemeanor, there are circumstances that can result in a DWI being charged as a felony. More specifically, under Mo. Rev. Stat. § 577.010, a DWI charge is a Class E felony if the driver is a persistent offender or, while committing the DWI, acted with criminal negligence in causing physical injury to another person. A persistent offender, as per Mo. Rev. Stat. § 577.001, is a person who has been found guilty of two or more separate intoxication-related traffic offenses or one intoxication-related traffic offense in which another was injured or killed. A conviction on a Class E felony can result in a prison sentence of up to four years.

DWI becomes a Class D felony if the driver is an aggravated offender, which means that the individual has been found guilty of three or more separate intoxication-related traffic offenses, or two more separate intoxicated-related traffic offenses, at least one of which resulted in injury or death to another. DWI also is a Class D felony if, in the course of committing the DWI, the individual acts with criminal negligence to cause physical injury to law enforcement officers or emergency personnel or to cause serious physical injury to another.

Predictably, the accumulation of additional intoxication-related traffic offenses will cause subsequent DWI charges to increase to higher felony levels with more severe penalties. This is also the case if the DWI results in death to law enforcement officers or emergency personnel, death to another who was not a passenger in the driver’s vehicle, death to two or more persons, or death to another while the driver had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.18% or more. If you have questions about your criminal charges, you will greatly benefit from the legal advice that you only can get from an experienced DWI defense lawyer.  Missouri DWI & Criminal Law Center of Benjamin Law Firm, LLC, has the skills and knowledge that will benefit you in handling your criminal charge. When you need clear answers to your legal questions, contact our office today at (816) 322-8008.

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