What’s the Difference Between DUI and DWI

It can happen to almost anyone. You are driving at night thinking everything is fine. Then, out of nowhere, you hear the siren and see the red lights flashing. You are being pulled over by the police or highway patrol.

After asking to see your driver’s license and proof of insurance, the officer asks you to step out of your car. He then asks you to perform one or more field sobriety exercises. He asks you to breathe into a breathalyzer.

He puts handcuffs on you and places you in the back of a squad car. He says that you are being arrested for DUI (Driving Under the Influence). You overhear another officer say, “DWI.” (Driving While Intoxicated)

So, which is it? Are you being arrested for DUI or DWI? Are these the same? Do they mean the same thing? Are they synonyms for the same thing? Are they used interchangeably? Or, is there a difference between DUI and DWI?

Degree of Intoxication

Both DUI and DWI are terms that are used in reference to operating a motor vehicle while you are impaired by alcohol or illegal drugs. The largest difference between DUI and DWI is in what the letters stand for. DWI is an acronym for “driving while intoxicated” or “impaired” and DUI stands for “driving under the influence”. It varies from state to state throughout the United States, as to the laws regarding how a DUI or DWI is to be dealt with or prosecuted.

In some states, the drunk driving laws are different for a DUI and a DWI. In these states, the DUI is a lesser charge and indicates a lesser degree of intoxication than a DWI. This is determined by your Blood Alcohol Level at the time of arrest. Sometimes, these states will allow the charges of a DWI to be reduced to a DUI with the help of a DWI or DUI Lawyer.

Reducing DWI to DUI

There are certain conditions that usually must be met in order for a case of DWI to be reduced to a DUI. Some of these mitigating conditions are:

  • If this incident was your first offense
  • If there is a genuine display of remorse on your part for the action you did
  • If your blood alcohol level was not considerably over the legal limit.

For example, the state of New York does distinguish between DWI and DUI. This is done by establishing a blood alcohol level of .08 as the legal limit for DWI. If a person has a blood alcohol level of .07, the charges may be reduced to a DUI. In this case, there is a difference between a DWI and a DUI. The DUI carries a lesser punishment.

However, some states throughout the United States have developed a “zero tolerance” policy. As a result, these states do not recognize any difference between a DUI and a DWI. Any blood alcohol level over the specified limit, which varies from state to state from .08 to .10, is considered to be a crime that will be punished in the same way, as far as the laws of these states are concerned.

In some states, the terms DUI and DWI are used to specify whether a person was driving impaired under the influence of alcohol. In this case, DUI is reserved for charges relating to illegal drugs.

Sometimes, DWI and DUI are looked at differently by the state and the federal government. As already mentioned, some states make a distinction between the two terms and some do not. For the federal government, the difference is based on severity. A DWI is given when your blood alcohol content (BAC) is over the .08 limit. On the other hand, a DUI is issued when your blood alcohol content is under .08. It is then considered a lesser charge.

As a country, the United States has cracked down on driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. This is regardless of how a particular state may look at DUI and DWI as two separate charges.

DWI and DUI Laws

DWI and DUI Laws are constantly changing. Even though an individual state may still make a difference between DUI and DWI, that distinction, other than in the actual wording, is quickly becoming less and less.

In fact, many authorities look at these terms as merely a matter of preference in the way of describing the same crime. More recently, other terms beside the two, DWI and DUI are also being used. Two of these are OUI and OWI. Here the “O” replaces the “D”. In this case, the “O” stands for operating as opposed to the “D” standing for driving.

This information about DUI and DWI is presented for your benefit. It is given to help you in the event that you face either of these charges.

Do not kid yourself. Do not take this lightly. Facing DUI or DWI charges is a serious matter. As already stated, both the state and the federal government are coming down hard on DUI and DWI.

If you have been arrested for either DUI or DWI, you may need the help and representation of a DUI lawyer who can provide you with a DUI defense.

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