So, Are They The Same?
It is easy to use DUI and DWI as synonyms, seeing how often we use them and differing definitions between jurisdictions. However, they are distinct offenses that, in some jurisdictions, carry separate charges.
What is DUI?
First, the more common of the two; DUI is the acronym for “Driving Under the Influence.” Typically, it relates to driving a car while you are drunk after taking copious amounts of alcohol. Nonetheless, DUI is not exclusive to alcohol. It also covers being under the influence of drugs or medications.
In some states, you need not be noticably drunk or visibly impaired. This is referred to as a per se offense. What it means is that, you only have to drive a motor vehicle on a highway or road with a blood-alcohol concentration of .08% to receive a DUI charge. It really doesn’t matter if you are slurring your words or not. Furthermore, more states are buying into the use of phrases such as “operating a vehicle” or “being in physical control of the vehicle” with the intention of widening the net of what constitutes a DUI. Therefore, in states with such phrases in their DUI laws, simply sitting in the driver’s seat with the keys in the ignition while under the influence would get you a DUI charge.
What is DWI?
DWI takes a slightly complicated twist. Its long form is not uniform. It may mean “Driving While Intoxicated” or “Driving While Impaired.” The first form is a synonym of DUI. However, the second form refers to a serious offense that results in criminal charges. The “Impaired” in the second form of DWI is used loosely. For example, driving while falling sleep, counts as DWI. Same as driving while being physically incapable of safely controlling the vehicle. Summarily, the elements of DWI and DUI are the same, however for DWI; the offender need not be on alcohol or drugs.
DUI and DWI are serious charges that would result in you losing your driver’s license, and worse, having a blemished record that may hurt your job prospects in the future. Therefore, it is good practice to avoid getting behind the wheel if you have reason to believe that you could be impaired while driving, regardless of if the cause of the impairment is alcohol, drug use, sleep deprivation, or something else. Rather, avail of an alternative mode of transport to get to your intended destination, or avoid engaging on the trip altogether until you are no longer impaired. On first glance, the obvious reason for this piece of advice would be to forestall criminal prosecution. However, there are more benefits. You avoid the possibility of hurting yourself or others. Furthermore, you avoid the possibility of taking on civil liability—payment for damage to someone’s property or injury to someone else)—because you had an accident.
It is important to contact an attorney with expertise in DUI and DWI related cases in your jurisdiction, if you have fear of becoming liable for actions taken while impaired or if you have been criminally charged with a DUI or a DWI. However, if you have sustained injury courtesy of an individual whom you suspect may have been impaired at the time when you were inflicted with the injury; you may also want to pursue a claim against the impaired driver by contacting a private attorney and local law enforcement.