What are the differences between DUI and DWI?

What are the differences between DUI and DWI? 2

What is the difference in terms of consequences of being charged with a DUI offence or a DWI offence?


Being charged with a DUI or a DWI may have the same consequences when it comes to your driving record and can impact your life in the same way, both of which have significant consequences for those facing the charges.

LawFuel asked an experienced attorney, Jefferson City DWI attorney, to explain the differences and the potential impact upon those charged with either offence.

With either charge an offender may find problems in either finding or keeping a job, finding housing or being admitted to the educational program of your choice.


You need someone by your side who knows the law, is familiar with the court system, and will fight until the end to get those charges reduced or dismissed. You have to keep deadlines, so get an attorney to defend you as soon as you can.

Is there a difference between a DUI and a DWI?

While DUI means driving under the influence of alcohol, it is understood that it also covers driving under the influence of drugs. These could be any drug, whether over-the-counter, prescription, or illegal. On the other hand, DWI means driving while intoxicated or while impaired. The precise definition may depend on the state where the charges originated.

However, regardless of whether you received a DUI or a DWI, both cases reflect that a police officer had reason to believe that you had a problem affecting the way you drove. They may have detected an impairment that could be caused by drugs, alcohol, dizziness, fatigue, or any other reason.

Different states have different ways of referring to the same action and may use these terms besides DUI or DWI:

  • OUI – Operating under the influence.
  • OWI – Operating while intoxicated.
  • DWAI – Driving while ability impaired.

Different terminology for the offences is often used, to confuse the issue for some, with the state jurisdiction determining the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels which differ often markedly.  Some jurisdictions will use the terminology in different ways and it is important to understand exactly what the legal requirements are for a particular state.


Are penalties for DUI or DWI the same?

In most states, the penalties that a driver faces after any of these charges are the same. A first offense, not accompanied by any injuries, deaths, or any aggravating circumstance will be treated as a misdemeanor.

This is considered a serious crime and is thus penalized with fines, penalties, court costs, impoundment fees, loss of driving privileges, probable time spent in jail, and to that, you need to add the cost of hiring a DUI lawyer.

What is an aggravating circumstance?

You may be charged with an aggravated DUI or DWI if you are found to be intoxicated while transporting kids in your car. Also, if your blood alcohol concentration is 0.15 or higher or if you were driving with a suspended license. In these cases, you will be facing harsher penalties. And if there are injuries or someone dies, you may now be facing felony charges.

Do car insurance rates increase after a DUI or DWI?

Being charged with a DUI or DWI will impact how much you pay for your car insurance. It has been estimated that, on average, rates increase by 74% nationwide since insurance companies consider people who have been charged with a DUI or DWI to be much riskier drivers than those without a conviction.

Depending on the state where you live, you may also be required to get SR-22 insurance after the DUI. This policy certifies that you have adequate car insurance and is for drivers who are considered to be high-risk. You may generally have to keep the SR-22 for at least three years.

How long does a DUI or DWI stay on a driver’s record?

These charges stay on a driver’s record and affect how much they pay for insurance for at least three years and, in some cases, up to five.

The additional cost of an insurance policy for these higher-risk drivers may drop off during that time period, but in some states, drivers will not be eligible to receive a good driver discount until 10 years have passed since the conviction.

Source: Kirsch & Kirsch are experienced, Missouri-based criminal offence and family lawyers.

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