It doesn’t matter how careful a person is – if they consume alcohol and decide to get behind the wheel, there is always a risk that they can be pulled over and charged with a DUI or DWI if they are over the limit. If you find yourself accused of a DWI, it is vital to know that there are different degrees of a DWI charge. Ultimately, it may depend on how many previous convictions you have been charged with.
A DWI is defined as “driving while impaired.” With each level of a DWI, there are different punishments associated with it. Here, criminal defense attorney Rahul Balaram explains what to expect under each level of DWI.
Fourth Degree DWI
The lowest of the DWI charges is a fourth-degree DWI charge. To be charged under the fourth degree, an individual must have no other DWI violations within the last ten years preceding the existing charge. The individual being charged must have also consented to take a urine test or breathalyzer test. Additionally, there must have been no other factors determining additional charges while the arrest took place.
The charges for a fourth-degree DWI are misdemeanor charges and can result in up to 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.
Third Degree DWI
A third-degree DWI charge is possible if the individual charged has not been convicted of any other driving while impaired violations in the last ten years preceding the current charge. This charge may prevail if the individual refused to take a breathalyzer or urine test at the officer’s request. Typically, a third-degree DWI will be charged if aggravating circumstances apply at the time of the arrest.
The charges for a third-degree DWI are a gross misdemeanor and can result in up to one year in jail and up to $3,000 in fines. This conviction also tends to face a minimum mandatory jail sentence.
Second Degree DWI
If an individual being charged has had two other driving while impaired violations within the past ten years, they may be charged with a second degree DWI. Other circumstances in which a person may face this charge are if they were convicted of another DWI in the past ten years and refused to take a breathalyzer or urine test, or if that individual refused to take a test and had aggravating factors at the time of the arrest. Someone may also face a second-degree charge if two aggravating factors existed at the time of the arrest.
The charges for a second degree DWI are a gross misdemeanor and can result in up to one year in jail and up to $3,000 in fines. Police also hold the right to seize the vehicle used to commit the DWI.
First Degree DWI
If an individual has faced three prior DWI violations in the past ten years, they can be charged with a first degree DWI. They can also be charged if they have been accused of any prior felony or first degree DWI at any point in time. If they have had a previous conviction for criminal vehicular operation, they can be charged in the first degree.
The charges for a first degree DWI are a felony and can result in up to seven years in prison and up to $14,000 in fines.
About Rahul Balaram
Rahul Balaram worked as a Public Defender for Solano County for many years and has represented hundreds of clients. Most recently, he worked on the misdemeanor conflict panel representing indigent clients. Rahul can be contacted at the Balaram Law Office in Santa Rosa and is available for consultation by phone and text 24/7. He represents his clients with dignity, compassion, and competence.