While DUI and DWI are often used interchangeably, they actually have different meanings and can carry different legal consequences.
Driving under the influence (DUI) and driving while intoxicated (DWI) are both serious criminal charges that can result in severe legal penalties. While the two terms are often used interchangeably, they actually have different meanings and can carry different consequences.
In this article, we will discuss the difference between DUI and DWI, the legal implications of each, and some common misconceptions.
DUI vs. DWI: What’s the difference?
The main difference between DUI and DWI is the level of impairment required to be charged with each offense. DUI typically refers to driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, while DWI usually refers to driving while intoxicated with alcohol.
The specific definitions and requirements for these offenses can vary from state to state. Some states may use both terms, while others may only use one or the other. Additionally, some states may have additional categories of impaired driving offenses, such as operating under the influence (OUI) or driving while ability impaired (DWAI).
In general, DUI is often used to refer to a lesser offense, while DWI is used to refer to a more serious offense. For example, some states may charge a first-time offender with a DUI if their blood alcohol content (BAC) is between 0.08% and 0.10%, while a BAC of 0.10% or higher may result in a DWI charge.
Legal Implications of DUI and DWI
The legal implications of DUI and DWI can be severe and can vary depending on the state where the offense occurred, as well as the individual circumstances of the case.
Here are some of the most common penalties associated with each offense:
- Fines: DUI fines can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars.
- Jail time: A DUI conviction may result in a short jail sentence, typically ranging from a few days to a few months.
- License suspension: Depending on the state, a DUI conviction can result in a license suspension ranging from a few months to a year or more.
- Alcohol education and treatment: Many states require DUI offenders to complete an alcohol education or treatment program as a condition of reinstating their driver’s license.
- Fines: DWI fines can be higher than DUI fines, sometimes reaching tens of thousands of dollars.
- Jail time: A DWI conviction can result in a longer jail sentence, ranging from several months to several years.
- License suspension: Like with DUI, a DWI conviction can result in a license suspension ranging from a few months to a year or more.
- Mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device: Some states require DWI offenders to install an ignition interlock device in their vehicle, which prevents the car from starting if the driver has been drinking.
It’s important to note that these penalties are not exhaustive and can vary greatly depending on the specific state and case. Repeat offenders and those who cause property damage or injury may face more severe penalties.
There are several common misconceptions about DUI and DWI. Here are a few:
- You can only be charged with DUI or DWI if your BAC is above the legal limit: While having a BAC above the legal limit is one way to be charged with DUI or DWI, it’s not the only way. In some cases, an officer may determine that you are impaired even if your BAC is below the legal limit.
- You can’t be charged with DUI or DWI for driving under the influence of drugs: While alcohol is the most common substance associated with DUI and DWI, driving under the influence of drugs can also result in these charges. In fact, some states have “drug DUI” laws that specifically prohibit driving under the influence of drugs, including prescription drugs and illegal drugs.
- You can refuse a breathalyzer test without consequences: Many people believe they can refuse a breathalyzer test without legal consequences. However, most states have implied consent laws that require drivers to submit to a breathalyzer test if an officer has reasonable suspicion of impairment. Refusing a breathalyzer test can result in an automatic license suspension and other legal penalties.
- A DUI or DWI conviction will be expunged from your record after a certain amount of time: While some states allow for expungement of certain criminal records, DUI and DWI convictions are often not eligible. Even if a conviction can be expunged, it may still appear on background checks in certain circumstances, such as when applying for a job involving driving or working with children.
While DUI and DWI are often used interchangeably, they actually have different meanings and can carry different legal consequences. The severity of these penalties can vary depending on the state where the offense occurred, as well as the individual circumstances of the case.
If you are facing DUI or DWI charges, it’s important to speak with an experienced DWI attorney at RB Isenberg, who can help you understand the legal implications and potential consequences.
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