Understanding the difference between a DUI vs DWI can be confusing. DUI is one of the terms one frequently reads or hears in the local news. In fact, every now and then, we hear Hollywood celebrities getting caught with DUI. In other instances, however, the term DWI is used.
Therefore, there is a tendency to confuse the two. But, is there any difference In DUI And DWI? Can they be used interchangeably?
The straightforward answer is this: a DUI is an offense committed by a person who drives under the influence of alcohol or drugs while the DWI is a crime done by a person when he or she drives with a blood or breath alcohol content percent at or above the limit in your state.
What's The Difference Between DUI And DWI
DUI stand for “driving under the influence” while DWI means for “driving while intoxicated” (or driving while impaired). They might be construed as referring to the same offense, but it is not always the case. This makes understanding a DUI vs DWI a but harder.
DUI can be considered as referring to the behavior of the offender while the DWI refers to the BAC or blood alcohol concentration. The average BAC which the law deems intoxication is 0.08. But, put it simply, the general idea behind the two is that the driver committed a serious violation of the law which posed a risk to the health and safety of himself and the community.
As mentioned above, DUI or DWI can have slight variations from each other and these differences can be due to state law. In some states, one term applies to impairment by alcohol while the other pertains to impairment by drugs or even an unknown substance.
A technical meaning is also given by some states, for instance, a DWI can mean driving while intoxicated of alcohol with a blood alcohol content (or BAC) over the specified allowable limit by law.
One should be careful in using these terms when they are both applicable to the state they are in because it can get confusing. For some states, DWI refers to alcohol use while DUI pertain to drug use. But, there are some states where their meanings are reversed. There are also states, like Maryland, which considers DUI more serious than DUI and so, imputes a graver penalty.
Therefore, before going to a new state, be sure to check the definitions used in the place or to be very safe. Never get behind the wheel when intoxicated or impaired.
Terms Other Than DUI or DWI
To make matters more confusing, DUI and DWI are not the only offenses pertaining to the influence of alcohol or substance while driving.
In Colorado, the term used is DWAI, which stands for “driving while ability impaired”. The technical meaning of DWAI is having a BAC of 0.05. In other states, DWI is use to mean “driving while impaired”, which depends on the judgment of the police officer – whether or not you are too impaired to drive.
There are some states which penalize more than just driving under the influence and use the terms OUI and OWI, which mean “operating under the influence” and “operating while intoxicated”.
These terms are actually similar to DUI vs DWI except that under these terms, a person can be held liable even if the vehicle is not running. Other states, like Ohio, specified the offense by using OMVI, meaning “operating a motor vehicle impaired”.
Process Of Getting Charged With DUI vs DWI
Getting charged with a DUI vs DWI means that the arresting officer has reason to believe the driver is too impaired to continue to drive. The arresting officer can use a field sobriety test or breathalyzer test to ascertain if the BAC is under 0.08.
Even if you pass both tests, the officer can call a Drug Recognition Expert to the scene to ensure if the person is under the influence drugs. The Drug Recognition Expert employs a multi-step (12 steps to be exact) evaluation process, which is standardized for all and he makes his analysis based on the facts that emerge from the entire 12-part process.
According to legal reporters, “As a general rule, prosecutors in most states rely much more heavily on DWI charges than on DUI charges, since breathalyzer and blood-alcohol tests results provide more concrete scientific evidence than field sobriety test results. But in many states, police may double-charge drivers, once with DUI and once with DWI.”
If you find yourself in this situation, you should consult with a DWI defense attorney.
Penalties of DUI vs DWI
Generally, the penalties for these two are the same: suspension of driver’s license use, payment of fines and court fees.
For second time offenders, imprisonment, probation, and community service are added as penalties. In addition, defensive driving classes or alcohol treatment program is required in order to retrieve the confiscated license.
The circumstances when a DUI is committed can also affect the penalty imposed. If the offender is with kids in the car, state courts can charge you with aggravated DUI. Felony DUI laws, which are followed in 46 states, give the courts the power to charge an offender with a felony for the second and succeeding offenses.
Again, check the state laws in order to ascertain for sure the penalties for each offense. For example, Texas state laws state that DUI offenses are Class C misdemeanors while DWI offenses are Class B. The penalty also includes prison sentences reaching from two years to a full decade, and fines as high as ten thousand dollars. And even after serving the penalties, one still has to undergo procedures such as acquiring SR-22 insurance and getting an ignition interlock device for the vehicle.
In conclusion, it is pretty clear that society puts a severe, tedious, and expensive punishment to people who drive under the influence or when intoxicated.
It is no surprise that state laws give these penalties to the offenses considering how potentially catastrophic the consequences are if one is to drive recklessly on a public road with impaired senses and thinking. So before every night out at a bar or drinks with friends, make sure that each of you has a plan on how to get home safely that does NOT involve getting behind the wheel under the influence or impaired.
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