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DUI vs. DWI Laws

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What Are Some Differences with DUI vs. DWI?

DUI stands for “Driving Under the Influence”, and DWI stands for “Driving While Intoxicated”. In some jurisdictions, they are used interchangeably to describe the same type of crime – that of driving a motor vehicle while drunk, or simply, drunk driving

However, in some states, the term “DWI” refers only to driving while intoxicated through alcohol while DUI refers to driving while under the influence of either alcohol or drugs. Thus, DUI may actually involve more serious charges, especially if the person is intoxicated due to illegal or dangerous drugs.

On the other hand (and to make things a bit more confusing), so DWI and DUI only refer to the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels of the drunk driver.  In these areas, DWI is sometimes more serious offense because the driver’s blood alcohol concentration was higher.  In contrast, DUI might be less serious offense because it involves lower BAC levels.

Due to the differences in the ways that alcohol laws describe DUI and DWI in each state, you may wish to consult with a lawyer if you need specific advice regarding such laws.

What Are the Penalties for DUI/DWI?

Regardless of the differences between DUI and DWI laws, most states have similar penalties for DUI and DWI charges. In most cases, a first time DUI or DWI offense will result in:

  • Misdemeanor charges
  • Criminal fines
  • A possible jail sentence (usually less than one year)

For first time offenders, these penalties can be lessened even more through alternative sentencing options, such as community service.

For repeat offenses, penalties for both DUI and DWI become more serious. These may involve:

  • Felony charges (especially where the incident caused serious bodily injury or death to another person)
  • Higher criminal fines
  • Longer jail sentences (greater than year, sometimes served in a prison facility rather than a county jail facility)

Defenses to DUI/DWI charges may include false or erroneous breathalyzer readings, coercion (i.e., was forced to drive while under the influence), and other types of defenses, depending on the nature of the charges.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Assistance with DUI or DWI Charges?

If you need assistance with the difference between DUI vs. DWI, a qualified criminal defense lawyer can provide you with much needed legal advice. Your attorney will be able to explain the law to you in a manner that is clear and understandable. Also, you lawyer can help represent you in court if you’ve been summoned to make an appearance. DUI/DWI laws can have far-reaching effects in other areas of life, so be sure to consult with a lawyer if you need legal help.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 11-09-2016 07:36 PM PST

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