Oftentimes, driving while intoxicated (DWI) offenses in Missouri are technical violations. People get arrested because their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is over the legal limit, even though they haven’t caused any harm to others.
Many DWI charges in Missouri are misdemeanor cases. They will potentially lead to jail time, fines and licensing consequences, but someone’s criminal record after a conviction or guilty plea will only be a misdemeanor record rather than a felony offense. However, sometimes Missouri prosecutors pursue felony DWI charges.
When is it possible for someone to end up facing felony DWI charges over a drunk driving arrest?
When someone gets injured or dies
When a drunk driving charge stems from a car crash, the consequences for other people may influence the charges that someone faces. The driver accused of causing a crash because of intoxication that led to other people getting hurt or dying could very well face felony charges as a result of that wreck.
When there is a minor in the vehicle
Those who get behind the wheel with a BAC over the legal limit have an elevated risk of a car crash, and anyone riding with them could easily end up hurt. Minors under the age of 17 often don’t have any control over what the adults in their lives do, and therefore prosecutors will bring enhanced charges against those who make choices that endanger underage children, including driving while drunk with them in the vehicle.
When someone has a very high BAC
The standard limit for most drivers for their BAC will be 0.08%. However, some people continue drinking while past that point and end up with a BAC of 0.15% or higher. In scenarios involving extremely elevated BACs, Missouri prosecutors can sometimes pursue aggravated DWI charges, which they will treat as felony charges.
When someone has two or more DWI priors
A defendant’s criminal record influences the charges and penalties a judge might impose in their case. Someone’s first two DWI charges might be misdemeanor offenses, but a third charge will likely be a felony even if it is only a technical offense with no other aggravating factors.
Felony DWI convictions lead to particularly serious penalties and also result in a criminal record. Seeking legal guidance to better understand how Missouri prosecutors choose how to handle DWI charges can help those who have been recently arrested in traffic to make informed decisions about their circumstances.