DUI and DWI are phrases that have become part of the common vernacular, and they are used to describe the crime of impaired driving. However, the terms are not necessarily interchangeable. While every state recognizes that driving with a blood-alcohol content in excess of .08 is a crime, the laws, penalties, and definitions differ by state and county.
Driving under the influence (DUI) is a comprehensive charge that results from impaired driving due to excessive alcohol consumption or substance abuse. In some instances, people convicted of a DUI have consumed alcohol and illicit or prescription drugs in combination. Convicting a person of a drug-related DUI charge can be challenging since breathalyzers only determine blood alcohol content (BAC). To establish that drugs are present in the driver’s system, officers must gather blood, saliva, and urine for chemical testing.
Conventional DUI laws often require the police to apprehend suspects while they are actually driving. However, many states have enacted laws to broaden DUI interpretations to include acts such as sitting behind the wheel of a parked car while holding the ignition key. More recent modifications to the law include empowering officers to arrest an individual for driving with a blood-alcohol content above .08 even if they are not visibly impaired.
Conversely, driving while intoxicated (DWI) is limited in scope and pertains primarily to alcohol-related impairment. The specific violation parameters and allowable punishments vary by state. In some jurisdictions, a DWI is synonymous with a DUI, and the penalties for both are essentially the same. DWI laws can include several other driving-related impairments including improperly or inadequately controlling the vehicle, falling asleep at the wheel or directly endangering the public safety.
Regardless of the term used to describe the infraction, a DUI or a DWI charge is very serious. A conviction can result in loss of driving privileges, mandatory ignition lock installation and even a possible jail sentence. Anyone charged with an impaired driving offense should contact an attorney who deals with DUI and DWI criminal representation.