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The Difference Between “DUI” and DWI”

I don’t drink much, but I read plenty, and I often read news reports about somebody caught driving drunk. When arrested and formally charged, the letters DUI appear, although sometimes I see DWI.

We know what they mean: Driving Under the Influence and Driving While Intoxicated or Impaired. But do we know the difference? I didn’t, so I looked it up.

In some states, no difference exists. In other states, DWI is more severe than DUI. Law enforcement uses one’s blood-alcohol level (BAL; also called Blood Alcohol Content, or BAC) at the time of arrest to determine which it is. In New York, a BAL of .07 and below means a DUI charge, while a BAL of .08 or greater means DWI. In Minnesota, there’s no difference, so  you’re paying a large fine and serving jail time for either charge.

In Texas, they’re treated as separate crimes. One can be charged with DUI from drinking/taking drugs and driving in public areas. The penalty for this Class C misdemeanor is a maximum $500 fine and at most 40 hours of community service. DWI means you have lost control of your vehicle while under the influence and driving in public areas. This is a Class B misdemeanor in Texas and carries maximum penalties of six months in county jail and a$2,000 find. And that’s just for the first offense.

In my home state of California, the names are interchangeable but trigger cases with the courts and Department of Motor Vehicles.  Section 23252(a) of the Vehicle Code: You’re DUI if you can’t operate the vehicle with the same caution and prudence of a sober person. There’s also 23252(b), which says you’re DUI if your BAC was .08 or greater.

After you’re arrested, the DMV requires you to appear for a hearing before 11 days have passed since being accused. Otherwise, your license is automatically suspended. Convictions for first time defendants can include heavy fines, jail time, license suspension, vehicle impoundment, mandatory ignition interlock device, DUI school, probation, and community service.

It really isn’t worth it to drink and drive. Hopefully, you’ll never have to know your state’s DUI/DWI laws.

Until next time! Use the right words!



October 11, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Many thanks for writing stories such as these to keep up education.
    Please be sure to read my blog and follow it, too!


    Comment by Criminal Lawyer Houston | May 7, 2013 | Reply

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