This Is the Key Difference Between a DUI and a DWI

Did you know that in the U.S. alone, 30 people die in a drunk-driving crash each day? Are you wondering about the difference between a DUI and a DWI?

In this article, join us as we explore the answer to this question to better understand the similarities and differences between these two. Read on, drive on, and learn what makes them different, and how rules and laws can vary state by state. 

Varies From State To State

You might wonder, is DWI a felony? No matter what state you’re in, the terms DUI and DWI are used to refer to drunken or impaired driving. States vary as far as what term they use to describe this type of behavior. 

Some states will have one term refer to drugs, while the other refers to alcohol. It can vary from state to state. In some states, a DUI is when a driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Meanwhile, a DWI looks at your blood alcohol content.

Whereas in other states, a DWI doesn’t just mean your blood alcohol content. It can also be referring to drugs or other substances. Check the definition in your state to understand the differences between the two. 

Does a DWI or DUI Raise Your Insurance Rate?

Your insurance rate can go up. After you’re charged with a DWI or DUI, some areas will require you to install an ignition interlock device on your steering wheel. It’s a built-in breathalyzer to ensure that your blood alcohol level is at 0% before starting your car. 

If you decide to switch your insurance policy after one of these charges, you’ll need to fill out an SR-22 through your local DMV. This is proof of insurance coverage. If your insurance company doesn’t file it you’ll need to. 

Exact Definition

Whether you fall under a DWI or DUI, they both mean that you’re using a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This means you’re endangering the lives of yourself and others. 

Which Is Worse?

While some states consider them to be separate, a DWI is a more serious charge. This means you have a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher.

In most states, DUI is usually a lower charge. This means that while your driving is impaired, it falls under .08. In some states, such as Maryland, a DUI is considered a more serious charge. 

What’s the Charge?

If it’s your first charge, you might get away with just a misdemeanor. Along with that, you might need to pay impoundment fees, court costs, fines, and penalties.

If you need to lawyer up you’ll need to pay attorney fees as well. After all of this, you might lose your license as well and potentially spend time in jail. This can lead to your insurance rates increasing for years. 

Blood Alcohol Level

When doing a comparison of a DWI vs a DUI, it’s important to understand that a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or higher is considered impaired driving no matter what state you’re in. 

Along with a DWI or DUI charge, some states will give you other criminal penalties as well. If you’re under 21, many states don’t allow you to have a blood alcohol content above 0.02%. This is also due to the fact that you must be 21 or older to drink in the United States. 

What Happens if You’re Pulled Over?

If a police officer suspects you’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they’ll stop you. They might require you to get out of your car and perform different physical tests. 

This can include standing on one leg, walking in a straight line, etc. Police officers might use a breathalyzer test as well.

It detects your blood alcohol content level. If you try to refuse a blood alcohol content test then many states will issue automatic penalties. 

Tips To Avoid a DUI or DWI

Your best bet is to not drink and drive! If you do drink, be mindful of what you drink, and the blood alcohol content. If you do buy a breathalyzer, some aren’t reliable so it’s best to keep your blood alcohol level far below the legal limit.

When you stop drinking, your blood alcohol content will still increase. After it peaks, it’ll drop.

If you do drink, you’ll want to wait at least a few hours before driving. The more you drink, the more you’ll have to wait. For example, a blood alcohol content of .08 can take about 5 1/2 hours to drop to 0%. 

When you do drink, eat food since that’ll help absorb some of the alcohol. Keep in mind that your breathalyzer will be less accurate than what the police use. 

Keep your drinks to one every hour to ensure that you can keep your blood alcohol content low. Drink water as well and not just alcohol. 

Avoid punches since they have an unmeasurable amount of alcohol. Keep in mind that even if your BAC is within the legal limits, you can still be charged. 

If you do drink and don’t have time to wait around for your alcohol to drop, have a friend or a car-sharing company come pick you up. Many of these car-sharing apps are very reasonable nowadays. 

It’s best to plan ahead. If you do want to drink, have a designated driver in advance. If you’re stranded, speak to the bar about leaving your car and how it’s not safe for you to drive home. 

Exploring the Difference Between a DUI and a DWI

Now that you’ve explored the difference between a DUI and DWI, you should have a better idea of each charge. Remember to stay safe out there to avoid harm to yourself and others. 

Would you like to read more health content? For everything from health to entertainment, check out our other articles today. 

Wayne Probert

Wayne Probert is a senior reporter at Zobuz, covering state and national politics, and he is a grantee with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Before joining Zobuz, he worked as a freelance journalist in Kentucky, having been published by dozens of outlets including NPR, the Center for Media.

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