What is the Diffence Between Them ?

People are always confused when it comes to DUI vs DWI. They’re not sure what’s the difference between the two terms. This is because the difference is very subtle and not all the states use the term is the same exact manner.


Let’s look at the difference in the definitions:

DUI stands for Driving Under the Influence.

DWI stands for Driving While Intoxicated or Impaired.

When a person is charged with a DUI it usually means that the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A DUI charge is not just for taking illegal drugs. You can be charged with a DUI even if you were taking over the counter medicine or prescribed medication.

The main charge of a DUI is that your judgment was impaired while driving a motor vehicle. This can be true regardless of which substance you were using.

A DWI typically means that the driver was charged with drunk driving.

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Different Opinions

Like I said earlier, different states have different opinions when it comes to DUI vs DWI.

In Texas, the term DUI refers to a minor who was caught drinking and driving. While an adult caught drunk driving would be charged with a DWI.

Some states use DWI strictly for drunk driving and DUI for driving while being impaired with drugs or narcotics.

Some states (like New Jersey) have a “zero tolerance policy” and do not recognize any differences between a DUI and DWI.

State DUI Laws: Understand the different laws used in your arrest

In some states, a DUI is considered a lesser charge than a DWI. For example, in New York the term DUI is used when your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) is below the legal limit 0.08 and DWI when it is above the legal limit. In these states it may be possible for you bring your DWI to the lesser charge of DUI.

Reducing your DWI to a DUI

In order to reduce your charge, the courts will ask two main questions:

1. Is this your first DUI offense?

Typically a first drunk driving offense is less severe than a repeat offense. A repeat offender will get harsher penalties in terms of fines, jail time, and driver’s license suspension.

If you were arrested for drunk driving before, it will be hard to gain the sympathy of the court to reduce your charge.

2. How high was your BAC level?

States are willing to reduce your DWI charge to a DUI if your BAC level is not extremely high.

If you BAC was barely over the legal limit (0.08 percent), you may be able to reduce to the lesser DUI charge. However, if your BAC was significantly high ( ex: twice the legal limit), you won’t be able to reduce the charges.

Which States Use DUI vs DWI ?

It is helpful to know which definition your state uses for drunk driving.

The following states use DUI to refer to drunk driving

    * Alabama * Arizona * California * Colorado * Connecticut * Delaware * Florida * Georgia * Hawaii * Idaho * Illinois * Kansas * Kentucky * Maryland * Michigan * Mississippi * Montana * Nevada * New Hampshire * New Mexico * North Dakota * Ohio * Oklahoma * South Carolina * South Dakota * Tennessee * Utah * Vermont * Virginia * Washington * West Virginia * Wyoming

The following states use DWI to refer to drunk driving:

    * Alaska * Arkansas * Louisiana * Minnesota * Missouri * Nebraska * New Jersey * New York * North Carolina * Texas * Washington, D.C.

Other Drunk Driving Terms

Some states have also begun using the acronym OUI and OWI . Where

OUI stands for Operating Under the Influence and
OWI stands for Operating While Impaired

The following states use OUI and OWI:

    * Indiana * Iowa * Maine * Massachusetts * Oregon * Pennsylvania * Rhode Island * Wisconsin

Bottom Line

When it comes to DUI vs DWI, the difference can be very subtle or non existent. The best thing to do is to check how your state defines the term. Then you can see if there is a possibility for you to lessen your charges and get a less severe punishment.

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