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DUI and DWI: What's the Difference?

What’s the Difference between a DUI and a DWI?

Often times, when the subject of impaired driving comes up, it seems the terms “DUI” and “DWI” are used interchangeably. However, it is important to note that there is a difference between the two. As the acronyms go, DUI stands for Driving Under the Influence and DWI stands for Driving While Intoxicated, and while they may sound alike, there is a difference between the two. Understanding what that difference is can be very important if you're charged with either.

It Depends on Where you Are

Location plays a huge role in distinguishing between a DUI and a DWI. Not every state separates them as two separate charges. For the states that do make a distinction between the two, a DUI is typically considered a lesser charge than a DWI. DUIs, in this case, denote a lower level of intoxication, which can mean less penalties and punishments if you’re convicted. In some cases, the court will allow a plea bargain to lower a DWI to DUI status, so long as it’s a first offense and the BAC limit at the time of being pulled over is in excess of the states maximum legal limit.

DWIs aren’t necessarily drug based

Another common misconception about the difference between a DUI and a DWI is that a DWI refers to being intoxicated from drugs rather than alcohol. However, a DUI can range anywhere from alcohol to over the counter cough and cold medicine, as well as illegal or other controlled substances. In some states, a DWI charge is reserved for when you are over the state legal limit for alcohol, while a DUI charge can refer to any substance in your body that might be impairing your ability to drive.

What should you do when charged with a DUI or a DWI?

It’s important to understand that if you have a DUI or a DWI, this is a very serious charge. In states that separate the two, a DWI is something to be avoided if at all possible. If you are pulled over and charged with either a DUI or a DWI, then it’s important that you get legal help, as soon as possible. A conviction for either a DUI or a DWI will cost you a significant amount of money, a license suspension, possible jail time, at the very least. Because either are a serious offense, it’s important to have an experienced drunk driving defense attorney to help you prepare for your day in court. At the worst case, having a DWI lowered to a DUI is in your favor as the punishments can be less severe. In the best case scenario, you can be acquitted of your charges, meaning you’re free from the punishments and penalties that come with being convicted of a DUI or a DWI. No matter how hopeless the case may seem, it’s in your best interest to hire an attorney. Your attorney may be able to find a viable defense strategy that you might have overlooked. Because both a DUI and a DWI come with a long lasting stigma as well as hefty punishments, it’s important to make every possible preparation before your day in court. Present the best possible face will keep you from having to suffer through the ravages that a drunk driving charge can impose on your life.
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About the Author

+Andrew is one of the leading DUI and criminal defense attorneys in both the state of Maryland and the District of Columbia. He blogs about Maryland DUI law, has numerous videos on the subject and has been asked to appear on national television to offer his legal opinion on high-profile criminal cases.

DUI and DWI: What's the Difference? Reviewed by Brandon on 11:31 AM Rating: 5

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