The United States does not have a universally accepted definition of either DUI or DWI. In some places, these two terms are used interchangeably. In others, DWIs are considered more serious than DUIs and are charged as such.
What both DUIs and DWIs have in common is that they are both criminal charges involving operating motor vehicles after using alcohol or drugs. Both of these charges can result in serious consequences for convicted drivers, so no matter which acronym is used, it’s essential to find DWI Representation. The lawyers that defend clients against DWI charges can also handle DUI charges.
What Is a DWI?
Generally speaking, DWI is an acronym for Driving While Impaired. The purpose of a DWI is to charge drivers who get behind the wheel after using potentially dangerous substances, which can be either illegal drugs or legal prescriptions.
In some states, it’s interpreted instead as Driving While Intoxicated. When this is the case, a DWI will be handled the same as a DUI and can refer to alcohol as an intoxicant.
What Is a DUI?
DUI is short for Driving Under the Influence. Typically, DUIs are issued to people who drive after consuming alcohol, and guilt is assessed using a blood alcohol content/concentration (BAC) reading from a field- or hospital-administered breathalyzer test. If the person taking the breathalyzer has a BAC of over 0.08%, he or she will almost always be charged with a DUI.
There are two other issues that can impact DUI convictions. First, some states have alcohol limits that are stricter than the federal limit of 0.08%. Second, drivers who are under the age of 21 and those operating commercial vehicles are often held to higher standards, and limits are typically set at 0.02%.
Which Is More Serious?
In states that consider DWIs and DUIs as two separate charges, DWIs are usually more serious and come with harsher penalties. Some states that do not issue DWI charges separately from DUIs have special designations for drivers who are suspected of using drugs, rather than alcohol. In Missouri, defendants suspected of Driving Under the Influence of Drugs (DUID) often face more serious charges.
DWIs, DUIs, and Implied Consent
To complicate matters further, some states also have implied consent laws. These laws make it illegal to refuse a breath, blood, urine, or saliva test. Drivers who refuse the test can lose their licenses for a year and are usually required to install ignition interlock devices in their cars following the end of the suspension. These stipulations apply regardless of whether the driver would have tested positive for alcohol or drugs.
Potential Consequences of DWI or DUI Conviction
DWIs and DUIs are serious offenses, and both can result in criminal and administrative charges. The consequences of being convicted of a DWI or DUI can include:
- Points, fines, or fees
- License suspension or revocation
- Court-mandated participation in substance abuse classes
- Jail time
- Community service
- Mandatory use of ignition interlock devices
- Increased car insurance costs
- How to Avoid Conviction
The best way to avoid being convicted of a DWI or a DUI is to never get behind the wheel of a car while intoxicated. Those who are already facing charges can’t go back in time, though. They can, however, hire DWI or DUI defense attorneys who can help them fight the charges in court.