What is the difference between a DUI and DWI?

In the United States, the terms DUI and DWI are generally used to refer to the same type of offense of driving a vehicle while under the influence of an impairing substance such as alcohol or drugs. However, depending on the various statutes of each individual state, either DUI or DWI may be used to define the offense. DUI is an acronym that stands for the offense of Driving Under the Influence while DWI stands for either Driving While Impaired or Driving While Intoxicated. Typically, both DUI and DWI offenses would include driving while having alcohol, drugs, or any other such substance that could negatively influence a person’s faculties and affect their driving. Drugs in this case can include legal prescribed medications, over the counter medications, or any other illegal substances.

In New York, for example, the terms DUI and DWI are distinctly different charges and the statute actually refers to DUI as DWAI, which stands for Driving While Ability Impaired. The offense of DWI in New York is considered driving while intoxicated beyond the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit of 0.08 percent. DWAI is used when a person has been driving while impaired by some other substance such as drugs or while having a BAC somewhere between 0.05 and 0.07 percent. Therefore, DWAI is considered more broad than DWI because a person who is not guilty of driving with a BAC beyond the legal limit of 0.08 can still be charged and convicted of DWAI.

Unlike New York, North Carolina only has one charge for the offense of driving while impaired (DWI), as an experienced DWI lawyer Shelby NC trusts can explain. There is no such charge as DUI or DWAI. However, under the statute defining the charge of DWI (NCGS § 20-138.1), there are three different ways the State can establish the offense has been committed.  A person is guilty of impaired driving in North Carolina if they have driven on any public vehicular area while: (1) having consumed enough alcohol to acquire an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or greater; (2) containing any amount of a Schedule I controlled substance such as heroine, ecstasy, GHB, methaqualone, peyote, or opiates in his blood or urine; or (3) substantially impaired by an impairing substance. While this is the only North Carolina statute dealing with the offense of DWI, it essentially covers all the same provisions included in the statutes of other states that consider DWI and DUI/DWAI different offenses.


CVThanks to our friends and contributors from Caulder & Valentine, PLLC for their insight into the difference between a DUI and DWI.

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