When it comes to driving under the influence, there are a few acronyms that people tend to mix up: DWI and DUI. But what’s the difference between the two? And which one is worse? We’re here to clear things up.
DWI stands for “Driving While Intoxicated,” while DUI stands for “Driving Under the Influence.” In most states, a DWI is considered more severe than a DUI, as it typically involves a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher. A DUI usually entails a BAC of .05 or higher. If you’re convicted of a DWI, you could face jail time, license revocation, and steep fines.
Table of Contents
What Is A DUI?
The term “DUI,” or Driving Under the Influence, is used when a person operates a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. This can include prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, and illegal drugs. A DUI is typically classified as a misdemeanor, though it can be escalated to a felony in some cases. The federal alcohol limit in the United States is .08% BAC, which means that a person with a BAC of .08 or higher can be charged with a DUI.
In most states, a person is usually charged with a DUI after a breathalyzer test, blood test, or field sobriety test shows that their BAC is above the legal limit. A DUI can also be charged if a person is under the influence of drugs, even if their BAC is below the legal limit.
What Is A DWI?
DWI stands for Driving While Impaired or Driving While Intoxicated. Technically, it bears the same rules as driving under the influence, meaning that a person charged with a DWI passed the stipulated alcohol limit of the state he’s convicted in. This is usually 0.08%.
A person charged with a DWI charge is often subjected to a breathalyzer or a field sobriety test to check their blood alcohol content level. They are charged with OWI — Operating While Intoxicated or Impaired. In most states, the term is used interchangeably with DUI, but a DWI is often the greater charge in states with different legal consequences.
DUI vs. DWI: What’s The Difference?
DWI and DUI are acronyms for different types of drunk driving. A DWI is Driving While Intoxicated, while a DUI is Driving Under the Influence. In most states, a DWI is considered more severe than a DUI, as it typically involves a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher. A DUI usually entails a BAC of .05 or higher.
If you’re convicted of a DWI, you could face jail time, license suspension, and steep fines. A DUI usually results in a fine and/or probation. However, if you cause an accident while driving under the influence that results in bodily injury, you could face felony charges.
In many states, penalties can increase if your BAC is at least 0.15%. This is often referred to as an “aggravated DUI” or a “super DUI.” The penalties for an aggravated DUI can include a longer prison sentence, a longer license suspension, and higher fines.
It’s important to remember that no matter which acronym you might be charged with, drunk driving is illegal and can have serious consequences. If you’ve been drinking, don’t get behind the wheel — call a ride or have a friend or family member drive you home.
Drunk Driving Laws By State
All states have particular laws regarding drunk or impaired driving. For example, a first-time DUI criminal charge in Alaska and Georgia will result in license suspension, but for different timeframes. Even the legal substance itself can be different. For example, all other states have a 0.08% alcohol limit, whereas Utah has a 0.05% limit.
Moreover, first-offender, second-offender, and third-offender punishments differ from state to state. For example, in California, a first offense may attract four days or up to 6 months in jail or a fine of $1400- $2600, while a first-time Texas DWI offender may get 3-180 days in jail and up to a $2,000 fine, especially in cases where a child was endangered.
On the other hand, a second-time offender in Wisconsin will be subjected to up to $1,100 in fines, or up to 6 months in jail, while a second-time offender in Tennessee will face up to $3,500 in fines, up to nearly one year in jail, and up to a 2 year license suspension.
The table below highlights the alcohol laws for each state.
Penalties For A Drunk Driving Conviction
The penalty for a drunk driving charge depends on whether it is a misdemeanor or a felony. A misdemeanor is a minor crime punishable by a fine and/or up to one year in jail. A felony is a more serious crime punishable by a fine and/or more than one year in jail.
This can happen when a person is a habitual drunk driver convicted of DUIs on three occasions over a specific period. It may also happen if the person caused an accident that caused serious bodily injury to another person or endangered a child under 16 years old.
When a DUI is convicted as a felony, it can lead to more serious consequences, such as probation, more than 12 months imprisonment, and fines over $1000.
Usually, a judge has discretion over the right punishment for each case within the state law provisions. The punishment for first DUI offenders will generally be milder than a second DUI offender, etc.
Here are some common penalties for a drunk driving conviction:
— Mandatory Drinking Awareness Program
When you are convicted of a DWI, one of the common penalties you may face is a mandatory drinking awareness program. This is a program that is designed to educate you about the dangers of driving while intoxicated and the risks associated with alcohol abuse. The program will likely include information about the effects of alcohol on your body, how to drink responsibly, and the consequences of drunk driving. It is important to participate in this program and take it seriously, as it can help you avoid future drunk driving convictions.
— License Suspension/Revocation
Another common penalty for a DWI is the suspension or revocation of your driver’s license. This means that you will not be able to drive for a certain period of time, which can range from a few months to a few years. In some cases, your license may be permanently revoked. If your license is suspended, you may be able to get a restricted license that allows you to drive to and from work or school.
— Ignition Interlock Device/SCRAM Ankle Monitor
If you are convicted of a DWI, you may be required to install an ignition interlock device (IID) in your vehicle. An IID is a device that prevents you from starting your car if you have been drinking. It works by measuring your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and will not allow your car to start if you are over the limit.
Another common penalty for a DWI is the installation of a SCRAM ankle monitor. A SCRAM ankle monitor is a device that monitors the amount of alcohol in your body and sends alerts to authorities if you drink or violate any other conditions of your probation. This device can help ensure that you do not drink and drive again.
In some cases, you may be required to pay for the device’s installation as well as incur daily monitoring costs.
— Increased Car Insurance Premiums
If you are convicted of a DWI, you may see an increase in your car insurance premiums. This is because drunk driving is considered a high-risk driving behavior, and car insurance companies typically charge more for drivers who are considered a risk. The increase in premiums will vary depending on your car insurance company and your state’s laws, but it is likely to be significant.
It is important to shop around for car insurance and compare rates before you buy a policy. This will help ensure that you get the best deal possible and that you are not paying too much for coverage. In some cases, insurance companies may drop your coverage altogether if you are convicted of a DWI and move your insurance plan to an SR-22 policy. An SR-22 insurance plan is a high-risk insurance policy that is required by some states for drivers who have been convicted of a DUI.
— Monetary Fines
One of the most common penalties for a DWI is a monetary fine. The amount of the fine will vary depending on your state’s laws and the severity of your offense, but it is likely to be several hundred dollars. In addition, you may also be required to pay court fees and costs. These fees can range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars, and they are generally payable immediately or on a monthly financing agreement. If you are unable to pay the fines and fees, you may be subject to additional penalties, such as jail time or community service. It is important to remember that you are responsible for paying all fines and fees associated with your drunk driving conviction, so make sure you set aside a legal fund before you go to court.
— Jail/Prison Time
If you are convicted of a DWI, you may face jail time. This means that you will be incarcerated in a jail or prison facility until your release. The length of your jail sentence will vary depending on your state’s laws and the severity of your offense, but it is likely to be several months or even a few years. In some cases, you may be required to serve your entire jail sentence.
Jail time is a serious penalty that should not be taken lightly. If you are arrested for DUI or DWI, make sure you contact a defense attorney immediately to discuss your legal options and try to get the best possible outcome for your case.
How A DUI Or DWI Affects Your Car Insurance Rates
If you’re convicted of a DWI, you could face jail time, license suspension, and steep fines. A DUI conviction will generally put your insurance costs at $1,657 above the previous year—an increase of about 72%. In states like North Carolina, you can expect up to four times the usual cost. In Michigan, the increase can go as high as $7,000, while Pennsylvania drivers may see an increase that’s just slightly above $600. The rates may go up by about 60% in New York, Illinois, and Georgia.
Several factors are considered in determining your rate increase after a conviction. For example, insurance companies see younger drivers as riskier to insure, so a younger driver with a DUI will most likely get a greater increase than an older counterpart. In Georgia, insurance rates for a young person convicted of DUI may triple those of an older DUI driver.
More importantly, the insurance company will consider the number of convictions. Multiple DUI convictions will make your insurance rates skyrocket. The time frame of a conviction before lowering rates also matters — for example, a person with four DUIs may experience a 250% premium increase over a person with a single conviction.
However, your premium increase is largely based on the company you’re insured with and the jurisdiction in question. Most companies will only lower insurance rates after a specific period of time has passed. Many states usually have the insurance lowered to its normal level after three years have passed. However, rates may remain affected for close to 10 years in Michigan.
The Bottom Line
DWI and DUI are acronyms that are often confused with one another, but they have very different meanings. A DWI is more severe than a DUI and typically involves a higher blood alcohol concentration (BAC). If you’re convicted of a DWI, you could face jail time, license suspension, and steep fines. In addition, your car insurance rates may increase significantly. If you’re arrested for DUI or DWI, make sure you contact a criminal defense attorney or law firm immediately to discuss your legal options and try to get the best possible outcome for your case. If convicted, an impaired driving charge will stay on your driving record for several years, which is why having a strong attorney-client relationship can make all the difference in forming a strong defense.
Frequently Asked Questions
Am I legally required to submit to a field sobriety test?
Generally speaking, you are not legally required to submit to a field sobriety test. However, if the officer that stops you is suspicious that you are intoxicated or under the influence of drugs, then the implied consent law allows the officer to conduct a BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) test, even if you don’t explicitly grant permission. A BAC test is different from a field sobriety test and is much more accurate.
What happens if I blow below the legal limit?
If you blow below the legal limit, you may still be convicted of a DUI or DWI if law enforcement officers believe that you are impaired. It’s important to remember that field sobriety tests are not always accurate, and you may still face penalties even if your BAC is below the legal limit. If you’re arrested for DUI or DWI, contact an attorney immediately to discuss your legal options.
How many points will I receive on my driver’s license for a DUI conviction?
Usually, you’ll receive anywhere from 6 to 12 points on your driver’s license for a DUI conviction. However, the number of points you receive may vary depending on the state in which you reside. If you accumulate too many points, your driver’s license may be suspended or revoked. It’s important to remember that a DUI conviction will also stay on your driving record for several years, so it’s important to seek legal assistance if you’re arrested for DUI or DWI.
Do I have to tell my employer about a DUI charge?
There is no universal answer to this question, as it depends on the laws of the state in which you reside. However, in most cases, you are legally required to disclose a DUI charge to your employer. This is because a DUI conviction can affect your driving privileges and may also impact your job security. If you’re unsure about whether or not you have to disclose a DUI charge to your employer, contact an attorney for advice.
What are enhanced penalties?
Enhanced penalties are punishments that are harsher than the typical penalties for a DUI or DWI conviction. These penalties may include longer jail time, higher fines, and more license suspensions. In some cases, enhanced penalties may also include community service or mandatory attendance at an alcohol education program.
Are breathalyzer test results always accurate?
No, breathalyzer test results are not always accurate. This is because the tests rely on your ability to provide an accurate estimate of your blood alcohol concentration (BAC), and many factors can impact this number.
How can I get to work if my license has been revoked?
If your driver’s license has been revoked, you’ll need to find alternative means of transportation to get to work. This may include taking public transportation, biking or walking, or hiring a cab or ride-sharing service. If you’re unable to get to work due to a license suspension, contact your employer immediately and ask if there is any other way you can make it into the office. You may also want to consider requesting a temporary driver’s license so that you can continue driving legally.