Types of Missouri DWI Offenders

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Many are surprised to realize there are different types of Missouri DWI Offenders. For more information and legal advice, contact the Ozarks DWI Law Clinic.

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Who Are DWI Offenders?

DWI offenders are those found liable for driving or operating a motor vehicle with blood alcohol levels over the legal limit or in a drugged condition. Missouri criminal law has created a classification system to punish such persons. The system distinguishes a first-time DWI offender from one with a prior conviction(s) and ensures stricter levels of punishment with each subsequent offense. So, while a first offender might be able to get away with a light sentence such as community service, such concessions are usually unavailable to repeat offenders.

 The stakes are higher if you have previous DWI convictions and you’re facing a fresh DWI charge. In that case, it is important to be aware of your standing in the Missouri DWI classification system, as that could determine the extent of the legal defense you require to avoid a conviction.

 You might be tempted to represent yourself in a DWI court, especially if you feel you did nothing wrong or if you adopted such an approach with your first trial. Nevertheless, self-representation is unlikely to benefit you since you’ll be facing more severe punishments. Getting a DWI attorney to represent you is likely to improve your defense.

Read on to learn more about the types of DWI offenders under Missouri law, the penalties for each subsequent offense, and how experienced DWI attorneys can defend you.

Elements of a DWI Charge/Offense in Missouri

Missouri DWI charges generally involve the following elements:

Driving While Intoxicated

DWI in Missouri involves operating, driving, or physically controlling a motor vehicle while in an intoxicated condition. The law further defines an intoxicated condition to mean being under the influence of:

  • Alcohol

  • A controlled substance

  • A drug

  • Or a combination of any of the above.

Measuring Intoxication

Mere consumption of alcohol or drugs is not enough to ground a DWI charge unless the consumption occurs while you’re already driving, which is a separate offense in many states. A DWI only occurs if it is determined via a chemical test that your intoxicant consumption level exceeds the approved legal limit, that is, 0.08% blood alcohol content for regular drivers and 0.04% for drivers of commercial motor vehicles.

Drivers under 21 years old with excessive blood alcohol content are also treated differently from regular drivers since they have not attained the legal drinking age. Their legal BAC limit is very low at 0.02%. 

Types of DWI Offenders in Missouri

Like other crimes under Missouri law, DWI offenses are categorized as felonies or misdemeanors, depending on the severity of the offense. The class within which an offense falls depends on the circumstances of the case and determines the sentence the convict would get.

Missouri criminal law further classifies DWI offenders according to the frequency of the offense by the convict. It assigns them a category under the various levels of felonies and misdemeanors as follows:

First Offender

You are considered a first-time offender if you do not have a prior conviction for an alcohol-related traffic offense. First-time DWI offenders in Missouri are charged with a Class B misdemeanor and could face probation, a fine, or have their license suspended.

Prior Offender

A prior offender is an individual with at least one other conviction of a DWI offense in Missouri. A prior offender is charged with a Class A misdemeanor, which increases the maximum jail time from six months (for a first offender) to one year. If convicted, you could also be made to pay a fine of up $1000.

Persistent Offender

persistent offender is one who has two or more previous DWI convictions in Missouri or one DWI conviction where the case involved the injury or death of another person. A persistent DWI offender may be charged with a Class E felony under the law. If convicted for this offense, your sentence could include imprisonment for a maximum of four years and any other sentence imposed by the judge.

Aggravated Offender

An aggravated offender is a person who has been convicted of at least three prior DWI offenses in Missouri or at least two separate intoxication-related traffic offenses, one of which led to the death or injury of another person.

Aggravated DWI charges are classified as Class D felonies. If found guilty of a Class D felony, you could spend up to seven years in prison.

Chronic Offender

A chronic offender is one who:

  •  has been found guilty of at least four previous DWI-related offenses
  • Has been found guilty of three or more DWI offenses where at least one of the offenses involved the death or injury of another
  • Has been found guilty of two or more previous DWIs where both incidents involved the death or injury of another.

A chronic DWI is a class C felony and attracts severe penalties, including a minimum of three years and a maximum of 10 years in prison.

Habitual Offender

A habitual offender is one who has been found guilty of:

  • Five or more previous and separate DWI offenses
  • Four or more previous DWIs, of which one of them involved the death or injury of another
  • Three or more previous DWI convictions in which at least two involved the death or serious injury of another.

A habitual DWI is charged as a Class B felony, which attracts a prison sentence of up to 15 years.

Who Administers DWI Penalties in Missouri?

The penalties for a DWI are imposed under both criminal law and administrative law. The criminal law penalties are handed down by the court upon conviction and executed by the corrections system.

On the other hand, Administrative law penalties for DWI offenses are applied by the Missouri Department of Revenue. The department is responsible for administering some DWI penalties, such as license suspension and installation of ignition interlock devices.

Note that the department does not require a criminal conviction to impose these penalties, so if you get arrested for a DWI, you’ll be facing possible penalties on two fronts- the DWI court and the Department of Revenue. As such, it is important that you employ all the available resources to defend yourself, including seeking professional help from a DWI attorney.

How a DWI Attorney Can Help

If you’ve been charged with a DWI in Missouri, consider getting an experienced DWI Lawyer to represent you. With their knowledge of Missouri criminal law, your attorney can assess your case and identify possible defenses that could help you avoid a conviction or get a reduced sentence.

Your attorney can also identify any weaknesses in the testimony of the arresting law enforcement officer and the prosecution’s case and exploit them to benefit you. Having a DWI lawyer in your corner during the trial might be all that you need to get out of the criminal justice system unscathed. Consider hiring one today to help with your case. 

If you have further questions on DWI defense in Missouri or require top-notch representation from a skilled attorney in Springfield and Greater Southwest Missouri, contact us at Ozarks DWI Law Clinic. We understand the difficulties of having a criminal charge hanging over your head and will work to give you the needed legal representation and support that could turn your case around positively, regardless of your status as a first-timer or repeat offender. Contact us immediately to get started.