A driver caught operating a vehicle while drunk in Missouri can potentially face a criminal charge for driving while intoxicated (DWI). A first offense can lead to a class B misdemeanor conviction that carries a maximum fine of $1,000 and up to six months in jail.
But suppose that driver had a child or a passenger under 17 at the time of their violation. In that case, they face harsher penalties and an additional criminal charge with even more severe punishments.
Upgraded first offense DWI
If a driver charged with DWI had a passenger under 17, their first offense is treated as a class A misdemeanor instead of a class B. If convicted, the driver faces a maximum fine of $2,000 and up to a year in prison.
In addition to these, the state will suspend the driver’s license for 90 days, but the driver can request restricted driving privileges. If Missouri’s Department of Transportation grants this request, the driver must install an ignition interlock device on their vehicle for the duration of the suspension.
Officials can also charge the driver with endangering the welfare of a child in the first degree, on top of the DWI. Under state law, a person commits the offense if they knowingly put the life and health of a child under 17 at substantial risk. A court might decide that the driver’s drunk driving is enough to endanger their child passenger or is dangerous enough if injuries occur.
The penalties for conviction depend on how injured the child passenger was or if the child died in an accident related to the driver’s inebriation:
- Child has no injuries, court still determines they were endangered: This is a class D felony. A conviction leads to a maximum of $10,000 in fines and up to seven years in prison.
- Child suffered injuries: The driver faces a class C felony, with a maximum $10,000 fine and up to 10 years in prison.
- Child suffered serious injuries: The offense becomes a class B felony with up to 15 years in prison on conviction.
- Child died in drunk driving-related incident: The offense becomes a class A felony. This carries a 30-year prison sentence.
Should a driver face a charge for a subsequent child endangerment offense, the lowest conviction they can receive is a class C felony, even if the child was unhurt.
Two charges for the price of one offense
DWI convictions lead to severe consequences, but the sentences for endangering a child are much more so. Motorists who face both charges might want to approach legal counsel, especially when one leads to a felony conviction.