DUI vs DWI: What Are the Main Differences?


One more drink before driving home won’t kill you, or will it? Maybe not, but it could kill someone else.

A recent study revealed that 15% of car accidents in the USA involved drivers with alcohol levels below the limit for a DUI and in 55% of deaths related to these cases, a sober person was the one killed.

Driving below the legal limit may be a lesser crime in some states but it’s still a serious offense with far-reaching, and sometimes fatal, consequences.

Let’s compare DUI vs DWI charges and what’s at stake.

DUI vs DWI Defined

There’s no formal national definition of either of these acronyms. DWI stands for ”Driving While Impaired’ and refers to the act of driving a motor vehicle with your senses impaired by drugs or alcohol.

These charges are usually made based on visual observations made by the arresting officer. They may also conduct additional tests like a field sobriety test.

It’s important to note that the term ‘drugs’ refers to both prescription and non-prescription or illegal drugs.

In some cases, DWI means ‘Driving While Intoxicated’ and means the same as DUI.

DUI means ‘Driving under the Influence’ and usually refers to blood alcohol concentration above the state limit.

The legal limits vary from state to state, and in some states, age limits may apply.

For instance, under Texas law, traffic officials may only issue people under the age of 21 with a DUI. That is if they’re caught driving with any alcohol in their blood. Everyone else gets charged with DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) when they’re over the legal limit.

In New York State and Illinois, the underage limit’s set at zero, while other states have a limit of 0.02 for minors.

The best way to stay out of trouble with the law in all cases of drinking and driving is to hail a cab, call a rideshare operator, or refrain from drinking and drugging if you’re driving.

Penalties for DWI vs DUI Compared

Both DUI and DWI are serious offenses across the country.

While the authorities may impose less severe DUI penalties than those for a DWI in states like Texas, DUI and DWI penalties generally include:

  • Tickets, fines, and court fees
  • Loss of driving privileges
  • Community service
  • Jail time
  • Alcohol or substance abuses classes
  • Mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device
  • Increased car insurance costs

An experienced DWI or DUI attorney might be able to help you get your charges reduced by basing your DUI defense on one of the few loopholes in DUI law.

It’s almost impossible to win one of these cases or get reduced charges without a DWI attorney by your side.

Stay on the Right Side of the Law

Apart from total abstinence when you’re driving, it pays to know the laws that apply to DUI vs DWI charges in your state.

When you know your rights, you’ll know when a lawyer can help you get out of hot water with the law.

Keep browsing our blog for more topics relating to your legal rights and how to get what you deserve.