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Drunk driving - you may have heard this referred to as DUI or DWI, among other acronyms. But is there really a difference between DUI and DWI?

What's The Difference Between DUI And DWI?

Both DUI and DWI refer to the illegal act of driving a vehicle while impaired by alcohol and/or drugs. The chief difference lies in what the letters mean. DUI designates driving under the influence, while DWI refers to driving while intoxicated. While they may sound identical on the surface, some states actually classify them as separate crimes.

If you live in a jurisdiction that classifies them separately, DUI is the lesser charge. A DUI charge denotes a lesser degree of impairment than a DWI for a driver charged with drinking and driving. Level of impairment is determined by the driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at the time of arrest. In some cases, the state may agree to a plea bargain, reducing a more serious charge of DWI to DUI.

There are certain conditions that must be met in order to reduce a DWI charge to a DUI. For example, it must be a first offense and the driver’s BAC may not be excessively over the state’s legal limit.

Zero Tolerance For Drunk Driving

There are some states in the U.S. that have created a zero tolerance policy. These states do not make a distinction between a DUI and DWI. The laws in zero tolerance states mandate that any BAC over the legal limit is a crime. Further complicating matters, other states use the terms of DUI and DWI to signify whether drugs impaired a driver – or alcohol impaired a driver. The term DUI is used if a person is under the influence of drugs.

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