DWI vs. DUI: Things you should Know

Both DWI or DUI has the potential to harm your driving abilities. Though both are related to driving, the meaning is always not the same. 

People arrested for Driving under the influence (DUI) or Driving while intoxicated (DWI) don’t know to differentiate between the offenses. When we talk of DWI vs. DUI, DWI is considered a more severe charge than DUI. DUI is considered as a lesser degree of impairment when compared to DWI.

DWI vs. DUI: The Meaning:

DUI is the acronym for ‘driving under the influence,’ and this influence may be of alcohol or drug. The dug could be anything that can influence your state of mind, which could be over-the-counter, prescription, or illegal.

On the other hand, DWI stands for Driving while intoxicated or driving while impaired. The precise definition depends on the state where you reside.

A DUI or DWI charge may arise when a law enforcement officer finds you to be too impaired while driving. The impairment could be due to alcohol consumption, drugs, illegal medicines for recreational purposes, or any other factors.

Some states may charge you for operating a motor vehicle under the influence (OUI), working while intoxicated (OWI), or driving while ability impaired (DWAI) rather than the charge of DUI or DWI.

DWI vs. DUI: State to State Difference

As there is a difference in the agricultural law among the states, so are the differences in treating the terms DWI and DUI. Read more about Agricultural law by clicking here.

In many states, drunk driving is a misdemeanor offense, but the repeated acts may lead to felony charges.

Both the terms DUI and DWI are used to describe impaired to drunken driving. However, some state laws refer to DUI as drunk driving, and some states refer to the same as DWI.

Both the terms become more tricky when some states use both the times in which one will refer to alcohol and the other to impairment by a substance other than alcohol, like prescription or recreational drugs.

Some states use DWI to refer to driving while having a blood alcohol content (BAC) over the legal limit (the federal limit 0.08% in most states, but some states may impose a more strict limit underage drivers, the limit is 0.02 %). DUI refers to driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Other states use DWI, referring to driving while impaired by drugs, alcohol, or other influential substances. The same states use DUI referring to driving under the influence of alcohol.

In many states, if you are found to be sitting on a driver’s seat being drunk, you can be charged for drunk driving even if the car isn’t moving. In some cases, you might be charged with DUI or DWI while steering a watercraft, moped, motorized scooter, or even bicycle or lawnmower.

So, you cannot assume that both the terms are treated the same in all the states. To know more about DWI and DUI, click here.

DWI vs. DUI: Which is worse?

Typically, DWI is considered more severe than DUI, as DWI signals higher levels of intoxication and has harsher penalties. Although in some instances, the first-time offender of DWI may be downgraded to DUI.

Both are serious offenses and have the potential to lead to both administrative and criminal charges, which may include:

  • Tickets, hefty fines, and court fees
  • Suspension of driver’s license
  • Loss of driving privileges
  • Alcohol or substance abuse classes
  • Community service
  • Jail time
  • Compulsory installation of an ignition interlock device
  • Increase in the cost of car insurance.

DWI and DUI Laws

The laws regarding DUI and DWI may include:

  • Driving while intoxicated involves a BAC of at least 0.08%
  • Aggravated going while intoxicated (Aggravated DWI) involves BAC of at least o.18%
  • The BAC should be more than 0.05% and less than 0.07% in case of driving while impaired by alcohol (DWAI/alcohol)
  • Driving while ability impaired by a single drug other than alcohol
  • Driving under the influence of a combination of drugs or alcohol


In DWI vs. DUI, DWI is undoubtedly worse than DUI and leads to more severe circumstances. Though DUI and DWI’s concept varies from state to state and hence there can’t be a fixed definition for both. In both DUI and DWI, a driver can get charged with a severe offense for endangering themselves and others as well.

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