Drunk driving is illegal in Missouri, just as it is across the United States. Anyone over the legal limit for their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) or driving in a clearly impaired manner could be subject to arrest and prosecution.
Although impaired driving is illegal in every state, the rules about drunk driving are slightly different in every state. Missouri refers to drunk driving infractions as driving while intoxicated (DWI) offenses. In many cases, those accused of impairment at the wheel face misdemeanor charges. However, Missouri prosecutors can sometimes pursue felony charges against those accused of drunk driving. When is a felony DWI charge possible?
When a driver injures someone
Drunk driving is illegal in no small part because of its association with major crashes. Therefore, if someone causes a wreck, they might face enhanced charges and penalties. A DWI that leads to a crash where someone gets injured can often trigger felony charges against the driver.
When a driver causes a death
Motor vehicle collisions are one of the top causes of death in the United States, and many of those crashes are preventable. Both state authorities and surviving family members are often eager to place the blame on a specific party for a crash that claims someone’s life. If there is a fatality related to an alleged drunk driving incident, Missouri prosecutors will likely pursue enhanced felony charges against the person accused of impairment at the wheel.
When someone faces third and subsequent charges
Most DWI offenses do not involve injuries to others or fatalities. Instead, they are technical infractions related to someone having an elevated blood alcohol concentration. Those accused of a first DWI or even a second charge will usually face misdemeanor charges unless there are aggravating factors present. However, third and subsequent DWI infractions tend to lead to felony charges. Prosecutors usually bring felony DWI charges against anyone previously convicted of a felony DWI.
A felony DWI can show up on more background checks and will also carry more serious penalties than a first or second DWI. However, anyone who is facing impaired driving allegations may have several options for defending against those charges. Additionally, it is worth noting that fighting first or second DWI charges is one way to minimize the risk of a felony DWI allegations in the future.