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When does a DUI become a felony?

On Behalf of | May 8, 2020 | Dui |

After going out for a beer with coworkers at your favorite Kansas City watering hole, you climb in your car to make your way back home. On your way, you notice a police cruiser behind you. To your shock, the lights and sirens go on. After pulling you over and asking you to perform a field sobriety test, the officer handcuffs you and drives you down to the police station to process you for a DUI.

For any Missourians who have been in a similar situation before, they may remember facing a misdemeanor. But when courts see multiple convictions, they can enhance the charges to increase the penalties, and drivers may find themselves fighting a felony. So how does enhancement work?

Misdemeanors don’t reach the severity of felony charges

In Missouri, DUIs have seven different levels of severity. The lowest two are misdemeanors, including:

  • Class B, the lowest level reserved for first-time offenders
  • Class A, charged for people with one alcohol-related traffic conviction in the last five years

While these charges can have serious consequences, they are less severe than felonies.

Felonies increase in harshness based on enhancing factors

For DUIs, drivers can receive five different types of felonies. The charges enhance if there are previous convictions or if injury or death happens to another person. From least to most severe, these felonies include:

  • Class E – Two previous alcohol-related traffic offense convictions or injury to another person while driving intoxicated
  • Class D – Three previous convictions, serious injury to another person or injury to first responders or police
  • Class C – Four previous convictions, death of another person or serious injury to first responders or police
  • Class B – Five previous convictions, death of first responders or police, death of another person not in the same vehicle, death of multiple people, or death of another person while blood alcohol concentration is above 0.18
  • Class A – A previous conviction of a Class B alcohol-related traffic offense.

Felony convictions mean life-long penalties

While misdemeanors have long-lasting consequences, a felony can significantly interfere with your life. You face long stretches in jail, years of probation, a suspended or revoked license and hefty fines. And once you serve your time, your criminal record will restrict your ability to find or keep a job. You may spend years of your life trying to get back on track after a mistake.

When you leave the bar after a few drinks, you may not consider how serious DUI consequences are. But when tragic events occur, you can end up with a charge that affects you for the rest of your life.