The criminal charges of driving while intoxicated (DWI) and driving under the influence (DUI) are often used interchangeably, but in some states, there is a distinct difference between the two. As the terms imply, one charge is driving under the influence, while the other is driving while intoxicated, with the second sometimes being more serious than the former.

What Is the Difference Between DWI and DUI?

In states that classify DWI and DUI separately, usually a DUI charge is the lesser of the two as it is indicative of a lesser degree of impairment as compared to DWI. DUI can also mean driving under the influence of drugs, which is also taken very seriously. During a stop, police officers are now able to request a Drug Recognition Expert to determine if a driver is impaired, and what drugs are involved.

Additionally, some states have other acronyms such as: operating under the influence (OUI), operating a vehicle under the influence (OVI), operating while intoxicated (OWI), driving while ability impaired (DWAI), operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant (OVUII), and driving under the influence of intoxicants (DUII). If you have been charged with any of these offenses, a criminal defense attorney will be able to help you navigate your own state’s laws.

Which of the Two Crimes Is More Serious?

In states that make a distinction between DUI and DWI, it is usually DWI that is more serious. In these states, the prosecution may offer a plea bargain to the defendant to plead guilty rather than going to trial, in exchange for a lesser charge of DUI.

What are Some Examples of the Differences Between DUI and DWI?

In Texas, a driver who has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or more, or is driving impaired while under the influence of any controlled substance or dangerous drugs, will be charged with DWI. However, if any driver has a BAC of less than 0.08 percent, or if they are a minor driving with any detectable amount of alcohol in their system, may be charged with DUI.

In New York, drivers will be charged with DWI at a BAC of 0.08% or higher, and may also receive an aggravated DWI for a BAC of .18% or higher, or driving with a minor aged 15 years or younger. New York also has Alcohol-DWAI and Drug-DWAI for offenses that affect a “reasonable and prudent” driver to be impaired to any extent by alcohol and drugs, respectively. The DWAI charge is a lesser charge to DWI, and is similar to the lesser charge of DUI in Texas, as noted above.

Seeking Legal Advice

There are many discrepancies between states when it comes to DUI and DWI laws. If you are facing this type of charge, contact a DUI/DWI lawyer immediately. A lawyer in your area can help build your case and determine your best course of action. Your attorney may also be able to negotiate a lesser charge, and will represent your best interests in court.