DUI vs. DWI Differences: What is DUI and DWI?

DUI vs. DWI Differences: What is DUI and DWI?

Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is dangerous and illegal in the U.S. The charges can vary by state. Two common terms are DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) and DUI (Driving Under the Influence).

While sometimes used interchangeably, they can have different meanings. This article explains the differences between DWI and DUI in legal contexts.

What is DWI?

Driving While Intoxicated (DWI ) refers to driving after consuming alcohol or other substances. In many states, a BAC of 0.08% or higher defines intoxication.

What is DUI?

Driving Under the Influence (DUI) refers to driving affected by alcohol, drugs, or other impairing substances, even prescription medications. In some states, DUI can mean driving with a BAC below the legal limit if there are signs of impairment.

DWI vs DUI: Differences Across States

The use of the terms DWI and DUI, and the differences between them, largely depend on the state’s laws. Some states see them as the same, while others differentiate based on certain criteria.

States Considering DUI and DWI as Same

In certain states, DUI and DWI mean the same thing: driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs.

These states do not differentiate between the terms and use either DUI or DWI as the standard term for prosecuting drunk or impaired driving offenses.

States Differentiating Between DUI and DWI

Some states differentiate between DUI and DWI based on impairment type or degree. For example, some places use DUI for alcohol impairment and DWI for drug impairment.

Elsewhere, DWI might indicate higher BAC levels, and DUI for lower BAC or no BAC test cases.

DUI, DWI and Minors

For underage drivers, many states have a zero-tolerance rule. Even a small amount of alcohol can lead to a DUI or DWI charge, regardless of the 0.08% adult limit. This policy aims to deter underage drinking and driving due to its serious risks.

DWI vs DUI: Severity of Charges

Typically, a DWI is seen as more severe than a DUI because it often indicates higher intoxication levels, leading to greater accident risks. Thus, DWI penalties might include bigger fines, longer license suspensions, and extended jail time. However, the exact seriousness depends on the state’s laws. In some places, DUI and DWI are used similarly with equal penalties and a criminal record.

Penalties for DUI and DWI

The penalties for DUI and DWI vary widely depending on the state, the driver’s BAC level, and whether it’s the driver’s first offense.

DUI Penalties

  • First-time DUI (in many states): Usually a misdemeanor. Consequences can include fines, probation, alcohol courses, short jail stints, and possibly an ignition interlock device.
  • Repeat offenses or DUIs causing injury/death: Elevated to a felony with increased penalties, such as longer jail or prison sentences.

DWI Penalties

  • First-time DWI: Includes fines, probation, and possible jail time. Given its viewed severity, penalties are usually stricter than DUIs.
  • Repeat offenses or high BAC: Result in higher fines, extended jail time, and longer license suspensions.

Final Thoughts: DWI vs DUI Differences

  • DWI vs. DUI distinctions are mainly state-dependent.
  • Both charges carry serious penalties: fines, jail time, and license suspension.
  • If charged, seek a knowledgeable attorney.

Driving under the influence is not only illegal but dangerous. Always drive sober.