Being charged with a DWI is bad enough. However, there are certain elements that can worsen your legal situation if they are present in your case. Here are three things that can aggravate a DWI charge and may lead to harsher punishments and penalties.
Causing an Accident
Being involved in an accident while under the influence of drugs and alcohol is one sure way of being hit with aggravated DWI charges. However, not all accidents are equal. Many states with tougher penalties for causing an accident while intoxicated typically have thresholds defendants must cross before enhanced charges can be filed against them.
In California, for instance, you may be charged with felony DUI if the accident you were involved in resulted in great bodily harm, disfigurement, or permanent disability. If someone dies in the crash, the prosecution may pile reckless homicide charges on top of the DUI, depending on the circumstances of the case.
The only time you may be able to escape this charge is if you are found not liable for the accident. For instance, you're passing through a green light and are T-boned by another driver who ran a red light. Although you were driving drunk at the time, you didn't cause the accident, so you likely wouldn't be subjected to worsened penalties as a result.
Driving With a Child in the Vehicle
Another thing that can make your DWI charges worse is being caught driving with a minor in the vehicle. In fact, any bad acts involving kids or teens have a greater chance of resulting in you facing an aggravated DWI.
For the purposes of a DUI, a minor is typically defined as anyone under the age of 16, though some states may also include 18 year olds, depending on the situation. For instance, driving a school bus while intoxicated in Illinois will result in an aggravated DWI charge even if the kids on board are 18 and, thus, legally considered adults.
Intoxicated driving in a school zone is a second way you may find yourself in greater trouble with the court as will passing a stopped school bus with its flag raised, especially if there are kids on the street at the time. In general, the courts have no sympathy or understanding when it comes to people who put kids in danger. So you can expect to be subjected to harsher penalties if your DWI involves children or teens in any way.
Not Having Vehicle Insurance
All states require drivers to have—at minimum—liability insurance on their vehicles. Generally, you'll only receive a traffic ticket or fine if you're caught driving without insurance. However, if you are pulled over for a DWI while uninsured, you may be charged with a felony. In Illinois, for instance, you will be charged with a class 4 felony if you are caught drunk driving with no insurance and may face up to 3 years in jail and a $25,000 fine. Even if your insurance expired the day before you were arrested, you will still face an aggravated DWI charge.
This is probably because a person who drives while intoxicated is more likely to cause an accident while behind the wheel. According to the Center for Disease Control, approximately one-third of traffic-related deaths in 2014 involved alcohol. If the driver is uninsured, victims may be unable to recover compensation for their injuries and property damages, costs the state may have to indirectly absorb via social programs and increased financial burden on the healthcare system.
Although you may be charged with an aggravated DWI, it may still be possible to fight the charge and get it reduced or thrown out using a variety of methods. Discuss your case with a criminal defense attorney who can help you develop a viable defense that may lead to the outcome you want.