What’s The Difference Between DUI & A DWI: A Breakdown

Here, we breakdown everything you need to know about DWI versus DUI.


More than 14.4 million Americans struggle with Alcohol Use Disorders (AUDs). In 2016 alone, more than 1 million American drivers faced arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol. A further 10,497 people died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes the same year.

American laws are quite stringent when it comes to drunk driving. The most common laws cover DUI and DWI. However, while more than 4 million Americans admit to drunk driving, most don’t understand the distinction between DUI and DWI.

Are you wondering, “What’s the difference between DUI and a DWI?” Here, we breakdown everything you need to know about DWI versus DUI. Read on to learn more.

What Is DUI?

The acronym DUI stands for driving under the influence. In the United States, drivers arrested while intoxicated should face the law based on the stipulations of state-specific DUI laws. Anyone driving, operating, or controlling any motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol or other drugs is liable to prosecution based on this law.

What most drivers don’t know is that DUI covers much more than just alcohol. The law covers recreational drugs and those drugs prescribed by physicians if overused. You’re liable to prosecution if these drugs render you incapable of operating a motor vehicle.

What Is DWI?

DWI, on the other hand, refers to driving while intoxicated. The legal definition of DWI varies from State to State depending on the amount of alcohol in the individual’s blood. Once your blood alcohol content surpasses a specific legal limit, you’re liable for legal prosecution if caught driving.

What’s the Difference Between DUI and DWI?

Both DWI and DUI carry severe legal implications. Depending on the specific jurisdiction, the application of the two statutes might vary. However, the two primarily refer to the same thing, which is the charge for drunk driving.

State to State Differences

Are you wondering, “What’s the difference between DUI and a DWI?” Part of the reason DUI and DWI seem distinct is due to the variation in application from one State to the next.

Both terms may be used interchangeably to refer to impaired driving. The majority of states use either of the two terms. However, it might be tricky in cases where states use both terms.

In most states where DUI is commonly applied, the authorities test whether the level of intoxication surpasses a specific blood alcohol content level (BAC). The BAC is often the standard yardstick used to determine your level of intoxication.

BAC When Determining DUI

When testing drivers for possible DUI offense, the law enforcement officers will typically use the BAC test. In other cases, the officers may also subject you to the breath test measurement, also known as the BAC.

Most states set the 0.08% limit as the threshold where proof of impairment is unnecessary if the alcohol in the bloodstream is above the mark.

Other jurisdictions also set the BAC levels at either 0.12% or 0.15%. Usually, the arresting officer may opt to consider other signs of intoxication by conducting additional field tests. It would help to understand the state-specific procedures when faced by a DUI related arrests in your particular State to avoid any possibility of unlawful prosecution.

The application of BAC when testing for DUI may vary depending on the age. Nonetheless, the arresting officer may opt to charge a driver for DUI in case they show signs of erratic driving. Other symptoms that imply the influence of alcohol might include the inability to manage common physical coordination.

Maximum Charge for DUI Offense

In most states, DUI falls under the category of a misdemeanor. If you’re a first-time offender, this offense is punishable by up to 6 months in a county jail. You might also be liable to pay up to $1000 in fines.

The second DUI offense can attract up to 1 year in county jail. You fall within the repeat offender category if the offense occurs within ten years after the first DUI charge. You’ll likely get a minimum charge of 10 days if you can appeal to leniency with a standard fine of $ 1000.

Most states consider a DUI an automatic felony. The states with the toughest DUI convictions include Arizona, Alaska, and Connecticut.

DWI Is a Broader Charge in Most Jurisdictions

The application of DIY tends to take a broader angle in most states. Most arresting officers will consider the level of intoxication for alcohol and other prescribed or recreational drugs. A DWI charge might require additional evidence, such as the failure to show normal use of mental or physical faculties.

Most states require that officers must prove impairment before arresting or charging a driver. The charge also depends on other underlying factors that include the age of the driver at the time of the arrest.

DWI Penalties in Texas

Did you know that every 20 minutes in Texas, someone is hurt in a crash involving drunk driving? The DWI penalties in Texas underwent a revision in the year 2019 to deal with this safety concern.

As a first time DWI offender in the State, you might suffer a jail term of between 3 days and 180 days. However, this must be for BAC that’s lower than 0.15. The fine for first-time offenders should not exceed $ 2000.

If you’re a second DWI offender, you might be liable to a maximum fine of $4000. You may also get between 30 days to one year in jail for DWI. The State prescribes penalties of up to $10, 000 and between two to ten years of imprisonment for third-time offenders.

Drivers in Texas facing DWI offenses may also need to understand other underlying factors in case of a DWI charge. These include DWI with a child passenger, intoxication assault or intoxication manslaughter. This DWI attorney in Harris County can help you deal with a pending DWI charge in Texas.

You Now Know What’s the Difference Between DUI and a DWI Charge

Most drivers get confused when trying to understand DWI versus DUI when it comes to drunk driving. The two terms refer to varying offenses, but their application is often interchangeable, depending on the jurisdiction. Have you been wondering, “What’s the difference between DUI and a DWI?”

The two charges differ based on definition, application, and the maximum penalty applicable. If you’re in states such as Texas, you might need to consider a seasoned DWI attorney to help you deal with any DWI related charge.

Was this article helpful? Keep reading our blogs, to enjoy insightful articles.


Team JST

Team JST work with our sponsors, shop vendors, and many more to create informative and engaging content.

Jetset Times in your inbox

Sign-up for our newsletter

By signing up, you agree to our Privacy Policy and European users agree to the data transfer policy.