What You Need to Know about DUI vs DWI
Drunk driving is the single largest cause of motor vehicle-related fatalities, and accounts for an alarmingly high 40% to 50% of the total number of deaths caused due to vehicular accidents on the road every year.
With the growing emphasis on road safety in many parts of America, there is a rising need for better awareness regarding DUI (Driving Under the Influence) and DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) offenses. These tend to get confused for each other quite often, since they’re quite similar in the way they are treated by the law, as well as sounding like the same thing.
Before we get into the details of penalties that are associated with these offenses, let’s understand exactly what they are.
What is the Difference between DUI and DWI?
Both DUI and DWI are treated as serious criminal offenses, and they are similar in that they both penalize drivers who pose a threat to others on the road due to being intoxicated.
- DUI, or Driving Under the Influence is the charge slapped on drivers who are impaired due to the influence of alcohol or drugs. Typically, law enforcement personnel conduct field sobriety tests (asking suspected drunk drivers to walk in a straight line, stand on one leg, follow a moving object with their eyes), which are considered a little more subjective than tests for DWI.
- DWI, or Driving While Intoxicated is the charge you face in case you are found to have alcohol on your breath or high BAC (Blood Alcohol Content). These are typically measured with chemical tests and breathalyzers, and you will be charged with DWI if your BAC is 0.08% or higher. Also known as a “per se DUI”, DWI relies on concrete proof rather than your perceived level of intoxication.
The basic difference between the two is a matter of actual evidence, but police personnel can arrest you under DUI laws if they think you’re too impaired to drive, even if your BAC is under the maximum acceptable limit. Often, drunk drivers may be double-charged, i.e. charged with a DWI after their arrest on DUI charges.
Are DUI and DWI Penalties Different?
In California, there is no specific difference in the penalties for DUI and DWI, but prosecutors tend to rely on DWI charges more heavily, since these are based on recorded scientific evidence.
Under the Administrative License Revocation law in California, the arresting officer can take away the license of any driver who denies a breathalyzer test when he/she is pulled over on suspicion of being influenced by alcohol or drugs. In fact, there are harsher penalties for those who refuse breathalyzer or blood-alcohol tests.
In addition to jail time, heavy fines and license suspension or revocation, DWI and DUI convictions will also stay on your driving record for 10 years. A drunk driving conviction is no joke, which is why you should have an experienced and aggressive DUI attorney fight your case.