Everyone knows that you shouldn’t drink and drive. But not everyone knows the difference between DUI and DWI. Both acronyms are terms that refer to operating a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol or illegal drugs. Throughout the United States, the laws regarding DUI and DWI vary.
DUI stands for driving under the influence and can be classified as a lesser charge in some states due to the level of intoxication. The level of intoxication is determined by an individual’s blood alcohol level at the time of arrest. New York State distinguishes a DUI from a DWI charge by maintaining a blood alcohol level of .08 as the legal limit. Any level .08 or higher is considered a DWI. If an individual registers a blood alcohol level of .07, the charges may then be reduced to a DUI.
DWI stands for driving while intoxicated or impaired. Any driver who has a blood alcohol level above the legal limit may be charged with a DWI. If you are driving erratically, speeding or veering from side to side, you may be pulled over and asked to take a Breathalyzer test. A Breathalyzer is an apparatus that measures an individual’s blood alcohol level. Refusal to take the test under suspicion of a DWI is classified as an admission of guilt. A field sobriety test may also be given in place of a Breathalyzer test. This test might include a heel-to-toe walk in a straight line, standing on one foot, reciting a portion of the alphabet, or other takes requiring mental acuteness.
If a law enforcement officer determines that you have been drinking and driving, or driving while under the influence of drugs, you will be taken to the nearest police station for further chemical tests and questioning. Offenders are often held in jail until court proceedings. A convincing defense attorney can sometimes get a DWI reduced to a DUI if certain conditions are met.
These conditions may include the defendant’s display of remorse, a blood alcohol level was slightly over the legal limit, or if the incident was classified as a first offense. A DUI carries a lesser punishment than a DWI.
Certain states throughout the country have developed a zero tolerance policy and do not recognize any difference between a DUI and a DWI offense. Any blood alcohol level that is measured over the specified limit is considered a crime that will be punished accordingly regardless. Other states may use DUI to classify a charge of driving under the influence of illegal drugs instead of alcohol.
Overall, the country as a whole has cracked down on driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs whether particular states categorize DUI and DWI separately or not. The minimum illegal blood alcohol level of .08 applies to every state.
Though the language of DUI and DWI is constantly changing under the law, it is still important to be aware of the general meaning for each charge. Either way, it’s best to avoid drinking and driving altogether.