Driving while intoxicated (DWI) charges are some of the most common offenses prosecuted in Missouri criminal courts. Most cases involve technical infractions where people have driven poorly or tested over the legal limit but didn’t harm anyone else. Many DWI defendants plead guilty, possibly because they think that their sentence will be lighter than if they tried their case and lost.
That may be the case for a first-time DWI without any harm to others, but not always. Some judges will impose the maximum penalty. After all, DWI offenders have a relatively high recidivism rate or chance of reoffending after their first conviction. Despite improvements in repeat convictions, roughly 25% of those convicted of an impaired driving offense will end up arrested again for a similar offense in the future, at least based on a 2014 report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Ultimately, the risk of someone reoffending after their first DWI charge influences the criminal justice process in two important ways.
Escalating charges and penalties imposed
Missouri, like other states, will eventually pursue a felony charge against motorists who have multiple DWI infractions on their records. Even if someone’s offense only leads to misdemeanor charges, the penalties possible, including the fines and license suspension, will increase with each repeat offense.
The desire to deter repeat DWI offenses means that those arrested for second or subsequent DWI charges will often face significant consequences.
Future challenges with insurance
The statistical likelihood that someone will break the law again by driving drunk a second or third time will influence an insurance company’s willingness to continue underwriting someone’s policy after a DWI arrest. A single conviction is enough to drastically increase someone’s insurance costs. Two or more offenses could lead to the insurance company refusing to cover the driver anymore. People sometimes have to look for special high-risk coverage when they get their driving privileges back after a DWI offense.
Given how repeat offenses lead to major challenges for those arrested and convicted, fighting back against even a first DWI charge is of the utmost importance for maximizing someone’s opportunities in the future. Responding appropriately to DWI charges can help someone avoid worse consequences later in life.