People often get confused with the different terms used to describe or classify drunk driving. The fact is that there really is not much difference between them. Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) and Driving Under the Influence (DUI) are the same but some states use one term while another state uses the other term. Some states use the term OUI which stands for Operating under the influence. All three terms refer to the same offense of drinking while driving.
DUI is the most widely used term for drunk driving. DWI is less common but is used in New York, Texas, and Missouri. OUI is more commonly used in the North-eastern States including Massachusetts, Maine, and Rhode Island. There are also other terms used by some states such as OWI (Operating While Intoxicated), OMVI (Operating a Motor Vehicle While Intoxicated), DUII (Driving under the influence of an intoxicant), DWAI (Driving While Ability Impaired), and DWUI (Driving While Under the Influence).
Drunk driving is a persistent problem on our roads today. In Kansas City especially, the prevalence of drivers who act negligent and get behind the wheel while being intoxicated continues to increase. Drunk driving incidents also increase during holidays such as Independence Day, St. Patrick’s Day, and Cinco de Mayo. On St. Patrick’s Day alone, police officers found 41 intoxicated drivers out of 1,300 vehicles that were checked. In 2016, there were 999 DUIs and this number did not include North KC, Jackson County, and other nearby areas.
What Happens When You Get a DWI in Missouri?
In Missouri, a driver is charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) if the driver has a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or more. The first DWI offense is considered a misdemeanor; a second offense may also be charged as a misdemeanor but a third DWI offense in Kansas City, MO is considered a Class D felony.
A Class D felony is considered to be the least serious among all felonies. They include actions that are not violent or dangerous. In most cases, Class D felonies include crimes that are victimless. Nevertheless, it is still a felony and like other felonies, Class D felonies also include jail sentences, strict probation conditions, and significant fines. In addition, Class D felonies stay on your record and will have an impact on your future job prospects, professional licenses, ability to rent, get loans etc.
In Missouri, a Class D felony can result in a maximum sentence of 4 years. However, Missouri has recently added a “Class E” felony which treats habitual DWI offenders much more harshly. This was done after significant criticism that somebody who engages in check fraud is treated the same way as somebody who kills another person while driving drunk. Thus, with these harsher penalties, those arrested for DWI will be prosecuted under the new classification.
Specifically, a Class E DWI offender includes one who is a persistent offender or who, while driving intoxicated, acted with criminal negligence and caused physical injury to another person. Class D will still remain but will include an aggravated offender and those who drive while intoxicated and act with criminal negligence resulting in a physical injury to a law enforcement officer or emergency personnel or acted with criminal negligence and caused serious physical injury to a person.
How Are First-Time DWI Offenders Treated?
First time DWI offenders in Missouri may be convicted of a misdemeanor but they could still face jail time for up to six months. They can also lose their license, have their license restricted, and can be fined up to $500. The driver may also be subjected to a two-year probation with conditions including a substance abuse evaluation and treatment, community service and random alcohol testing.
In case of a DWI-related accident, those convicted can spend 2-7 years in jail and may be fined up to $5,000. Their license can be suspended for a period of five years. Third or subsequent offenses may also include 3 to 5 years’ probation with substance abuse evaluation, education and treatment, community service and random alcohol testing.
In case of a DWI in Missouri, the driver faces suspension of their driver’s license and will also be charged for a criminal offense which could result in jail time, heavy fines and other penalties. A driver charged with DWI has 15 days to request a hearing about their license suspension.
People often don’t realize the long-term consequences of driving while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. First, alcohol intake should always be within reasonable limits. However, if you already know that you are out with friends or celebrating a certain event or achievement and you will be drinking, it is always in your interest to avoid getting behind the wheel. You not only put your life at risk but you also pose a major risk to other drivers, pedestrians, and passengers. Any negligence in this condition can change your life and other people’s lives. In addition, the legal consequences of DWI are sufficient to disrupt your life for a very, very long time. Your job prospects, your credibility, your reputation and your health are all at risk. You also leave yourself open to lawsuits and penalties. It is thus always a good idea to think before you act. If you want to drink, drink sensibly. If you can’t drink sensibly, don’t drive. If you do drive while drunk, be prepared for the consequences.
Speak with a DWI Attorney in Kansas City Today
If you have been involved in a DWI-related accident and are unsure of how the law may treat you (whether you are a driver or a victim), call one of our attorneys at Krause & Kinsman for more information. Our qualified team of lawyers has significant experience dealing with DWI cases. We understand that a DWI accident can be quite traumatic for all parties involved and the legal penalties, consequences and compensation laws can also be fairly confusing. Call us now at 1-816-200-2900 for a free consultation. Any information you provide will be strictly confidential and will only be used to prepare a solid defense for your case.
Robert Kinsman is a personal injury, mass tort, business litigation, and employment discrimination attorney who practices in Kansas City, Missouri. He graduated from the University of Missouri Kansas City School of Law and has been practicing law for several years now. Robert Kinsman is passionate about normalizing the life of his clients after they have been seriously injured. Learn more about his experience here.