You can be charged with a misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, or even a felony DWI. The seriousness of the charge relates to how many “aggravating factors” are present in a particular case. That means that all DWIs start at the misdemeanor level (called a “fourth degree”) and can increase in severity based on any aggravating factors.
The factors that can aggravate the charge against you include:
- Having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .16 or more
- Having a child under 16 years old is present in the vehicle
- Refusing to submit to BAC testing (a breath test, blood test, or urine sample)
- Any prior DWIs within ten years.
This means, for example, if this is your first ever DWI but you blow a .21 on the DMT<, you would have one aggravating factor present and you could be charged with a third-degree DWI (a gross misdemeanor). If you also had a 14-year-old in the car, then there would be two aggravating offenses, and you could be charged with second-degree DWI (also a gross misdemeanor, but with mandatory jail time). A first-degree DWI is the most serious offense and is a felony level charge that carries up to 7 years in prison as the penalty. A First Degree DWI can happen under 3 circumstances:
- You have 3 prior DWI incidents within the last 10 years
- You have a prior felony DWI
- You have a prior felony criminal vehicular homicide or criminal vehicular injury conviction that included the use of drugs or alcohol.
Regardless of the level of charge, DWIs can carry serious, ongoing consequences both criminally and civilly. If you have been charged with DWI, reach out to one of our attorneys for help.