You know not to drive drunk, but do you know what to do if you’re injured by a drunk driver?
Drinking and driving can kill you or someone else. And if you’re charged with an alcohol-related offense, it can change your life forever. Here’s what you need to know before you drive in Mississippi.
You might have a million problems, but a DUI shouldn’t be one of them.
That’s because Mississippi DUI laws are strict, and there are strong penalties for people who violate them.
How does Mississippi define drunk driving?
Mississippi law defines “under the influence” as “a state of intoxication sufficient to lessen a person’s normal ability for clarity and control.”
Mississippi law says a driver is legally drunk when their blood alcohol content (BAC) level is .08% or higher. A commercial driver or a school bus driver is legally drunk if their BAC is .04% or higher. A driver who is under 21 years old is legally drunk if their BAC is .02% or higher. However, if a minor (a person under age 21) has a BAC higher than .08%, they can receive adult conviction penalties.
In any instance where a convicted drunk driver causes death or serious injury to someone else, the aggravated DUI offense becomes a felony with a criminal penalty of up to 25 years in prison per injury or death.
It is illegal to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or another substance that impairs your ability to drive. Under the Mississippi Implied Consent Law, a driver may refuse to submit to a chemical test of their breath, blood or urine to determine proof of intoxication, but refusal could lead to harsher penalties if they are ultimately convicted. If you refuse, you’re subject to immediate license seizure and a 90-day suspension. The suspension is one year for a person with a prior refusal or DUI conviction.
In addition, if a drunk driver is transporting a passenger under age 16, they can face a separate charge for misdemeanor child endangerment. They might be sentenced to up to $1,000 in fines and a maximum of 12 months in jail per child. If the child is injured or killed, the charge becomes a felony and results in a $10,000 fine and five to 25 years in prison.
Mississippi DUI penalties
Penalties include both jail time and fines, but there can be other consequences for aggravating circumstances.
|Penalty||1st offense||2nd offense||3rd offense|
|Jail time||Up to 48 hours||5 days to 6 months||1 to 5 years|
|Community service||10 days to six months|
|Treatment program||N/A||Assessment for alcohol or drug abuse, potential for required treatment program||Assessment for alcohol or drug abuse, potential for required treatment program|
|License suspension||120 days||One year||Three years *|
|Alcohol safety education program||Required to be eligible for license reinstatement||Required to be eligible for license reinstatement||Required to be eligible for license reinstatement|
|* License suspension is ten years for fourth offense|
A Mississippi DUI offender may apply for a restricted ignition interlock device (IID) license. They would pay applicable fees and install an IID on any vehicle they drive. If they own a vehicle that does not have an IID, it would be immobilized or impounded. A driver with an IID license may drive their IID-equipped vehicle during the DUI license suspension period.
Non-adjudication for a first offense
A first-time offender might be eligible for a non-adjudication determination, which means that after completing an alcohol safety program, paying fines and fees, and completing a 120-day IID requirement, they might not have the normal penalties.
What if you’re the victim of a Mississippi drunk driver?
It’s important to understand that criminal proceedings are separate and distinct from a civil claim.
If the person who caused the accident was drunk, they might be charged with a crime. However, only the government (i.e. the state or local prosecuting authority, like the district attorney) can charge a person with a crime—as a private person, you can’t do that.
You can pursue damages (compensation for your injuries) through insurance or a personal injury lawsuit, depending on the severity of your injuries and the amount of money you’re entitled to recover.
This is a civil claim and is unrelated to the criminal charges. You may file a civil personal injury lawsuit while criminal charges are pending, however. Usually, any evidence that was allowed in the criminal proceeding would also be allowed in a civil lawsuit; if the driver is convicted of a DUI, that would likely help your case because it would provide strong proof of negligence.
There are Mississippi laws that a person or establishment that provides alcohol to a minor or to a visibly intoxicated person can also be liable for an accident caused by the drunk person.
Consult a Mississippi personal injury lawyer
If you’ve been injured because of a Mississippi drunk driver, there are ways to receive the compensation you’re owed. A Mississippi personal injury lawyer will be able to work with the insurance company or file a lawsuit to claim the damages you need to cover your expenses.