What Is the Significance of Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Laws on DWI Cases?
Mandatory minimum sentences are an important aspect of the criminal justice system in Missouri. The term refers to the minimum sentence that a convicted person must serve. The judge cannot issue a sentence that is less than the mandatory minimum unless the law provides otherwise. But they can exceed it if they deem it appropriate.
These laws exist to curb repeat offenses and form part of Missouri’s Zero Tolerance Laws. If you’re facing DWI charges in Missouri, especially as a repeat offender, the mandatory sentencing laws would determine the extent of your punishment if convicted.
The information here explains how the state’s mandatory minimum sentencing policy works in DWI cases to help you understand what you’re up against and why you must take your DWI defense seriously.
Keep reading to learn more.
Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Laws for DWI Cases in Missouri
Missouri’s mandatory minimum sentencing policy prescribes mandatory minimum sentences for DWI offenses depending on the severity of the offense. The rules are summarized below.
Mandatory Minimum Sentences for Class A and Class B Felony DWIs
The mandatory minimum sentencing rules for Class A and Class B felony DWI offenses differ from the rules prescribed for other classes of the offense.
A DWI is a Class A felony if the defendant has previously been found guilty of all the other classes of DWI offenses and convicted at least five times. The offense is a Class B felony if any of the following applies to the defendant;
- Is a habitual offender – that is, a person who has been found guilty of:
- Five previous DWIs
- Four or more separate DWIs or related offenses where at least one of the offenses involved injury or death to another
- Three or more separate DWIs or related offenses where at least two of the offenses involved injury or death to another.
- A DWI that caused the death of a law enforcement officer or emergency personnel
- A DWI that caused the death of any person(s) due to the offender’s criminal negligence.
Class A felonies are generally punishable by imprisonment for 10 to 30 years or for life, while Class Bs are punishable by imprisonment for five to 15 years. But by the mandatory minimum sentencing laws, a person convicted of such offenses must serve a certain percentage of the sentence issued by the judge as follows:
- If the offender has previously been imprisoned for a felony, they must serve 40 percent of their sentence or turn 70 years old before they’d be eligible for probation
- If the defendant has been imprisoned for two previous felonies, they must serve 50 percent of their sentence. They may also be eligible for probation if they turn 70 and serve at least 40 percent of their sentence.
- A defendant imprisoned for prior felony offenses three or more times must serve 80 percent of their sentence before they are eligible for probation. Alternatively, they could be eligible if they have served at least 40 percent of their sentence and have turned 70 years old.
Class A and B felonies are the most serious felony offenses in Missouri, with the most severe offenses. If you need to fight a felony in Missouri, consider seeking help from a skilled defense attorney so you don’t have to go through the process alone.
Mandatory Sentences for Other Classes of DWI Offenses
In all other cases, the mandatory minimum sentence for a DWI conviction depends on the defendant’s prior criminal record as follows as shown below.
A first DWI is classified as a Class B misdemeanor and usually attracts a punishment of imprisonment for up to six months upon conviction. However, the prison sentence may be suspended in exchange for a probation period of two years and any other condition the court may impose.
A prior DWI offender is one who has been convicted of one DWI offense or related crime in the five years before their present conviction. Prior offenders face up to a year of imprisonment upon conviction.
But they must serve at least ten days in prison before being considered for parole or probation unless the terms involve at least 30 days of court-supervised community service. The defendant may also be required to complete an alcohol or drug treatment program as a condition for early probation.
A persistent DWI offender is one who has been convicted of any of the following
- Two or more separate DWIs or related offenses
- One DWI or related offense that caused death or injury to another.
Persistent DWI offenders are charged with Class E felonies and may face up to four years imprisonment if convicted. Under the mandatory sentencing laws, they must serve at least 30 days in prison. They may be eligible for probation earlier if they perform at least 60 days of court-supervised community service and complete a court-ordered alcohol or drug treatment program as a condition of their early release.
An aggravated DWI offender is a person who has been found guilty of three or more separate DWIs or related offenses or two or more of such offenses where at least one involved death and injury to another.
An aggravated DWI is a Class D felony and attracts a penalty of up to seven years imprisonment. If convicted as an aggravated offender, you must serve at least 60 days imprisonment before being eligible for parole or probation.
A chronic offender is one who has been found guilty of any of the following:
- Four or more separate DWI offenses or related offenses
- Three or more DWIs or related offenses where at least one of them involved death or injury to another.
- Two or more separate DWIs or related offenses where both offenses led to the injury and death of another.
A chronic DWI offense, much like sexual abuse:1st degree, is a Class C felony punishable by up to ten years imprisonment. If you’re convicted as a chronic offender, you must serve a mandatory sentence of at least two years before being eligible for probation.
How an Attorney Can Help
The above sentencing guidelines underscore the need for a fierce DWI defense, especially for a repeat offender. If you’re in that position, the odds are already against you, and you’ll likely spend a significant amount of time in jail if convicted. Even as a first offender, you’re not entitled to a sentence suspension as of right; hence you could still go to jail if convicted.
Your best approach in such cases is to get a competent DWI attorney to represent you and help you avoid a conviction where possible. Your attorney might also be able to convince the court to exercise their judicial discretion in your favor and give you a sentence that does not exceed the mandatory minimums or that other forms of punishment, such as community service, would suffice (especially for a first offender) if your conviction is inevitable.
When you’re facing a criminal conviction for a DWI or any other offense, the stakes are high, and your future is at risk. You mustn’t leave anything to chance. Seek help from an established criminal defense law firm immediately to increase your chances of a positive outcome.
Contact the Missouri DWI & Criminal Law Center for Help
If you have further questions about mandatory minimum penalties in Missouri or defending your DWI charge, we are here to help at the Missouri DWI & Criminal Law Center. With our outstanding DWI defense track record, you can trust us to handle your case carefully and diligently.
Contact us for quality legal advice and representation. Let us help you find your way through this trying time and steer your case toward the best possible outcome.