What is the difference between DUI and DWI?
You’ll often see the terms DUI and DWI used interchangeably in Texas.
This is a mistake as they are two separate offenses with different penalties and other consequences associated with them.
Both can lead to an unwanted criminal record unless you hire an experienced lawyer who can clear your name.
So, what is the difference between DUI and DWI?
In truth, most times when people are talking about DUI in Texas, they mean DWI. The DUI term has a very narrow meaning and application in Texas, as you’ll see below.
What are DUI and DWI?
DUI is short for driving under the influence.
DWI is short for driving while intoxicated.
If you’re stopped by law enforcement officers in San Antonio, you can be charged with DWI if you are suspected of operating a vehicle in a public place while lacking the use of normal mental and physical faculties, due to alcohol or drug usage.
According to the Texas Department of Transport:
“In Texas, a person is legally intoxicated and may be arrested and charged with Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) with a .08 BAC (blood or breath alcohol concentration). However, a person is also intoxicated if impaired due to alcohol or other drugs regardless of BAC”
Note that the ONLY way you can be charged with DUI in Texas is if you are under 21, stopped by police officers, and are found to have been operating the vehicle with ANY alcohol in your system.
A BAC reading of under .08, in this case, is irrelevant* in this case as the state of Texas has a zero-tolerance policy to underage drinking and driving.
It is therefore illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to drive with any detectable amount of alcohol in the blood. That effectively means that you may not even be able to drive the next morning after consuming alcohol at a party the night before.
DUI is sometimes also called DUIA (driving under the influence of alcohol).
*NOTE: Having said that the BAC reading is irrelevant, a person under 21 with a BAC of .08 or greater while operating a vehicle can still be charged with the more serious offense of DWI rather than DUI.
Is DWI worse than DUI?
DWI is considered a more serious offense than DUI in the state of Texas.
This is because it is usually applied to adults (in rare cases to minors) where the blood alcohol concentration is unacceptably high, causing driving impairment.
This is considered as behavior that an adult willingly and knowingly engages in, endangering public safety.
With DUI, the law recognizes that youngsters often make silly mistakes.
That’s why a first DUI conviction, though it will result in a criminal record, has more lenient penalties associated with it:
- Up to a $500 fine
- A 60-day driver license suspension
- 20 to 40 hours of community service
- Mandatory alcohol awareness classes
These penalties increase markedly for subsequent convictions.
A first DWI conviction will result in more serious penalties than a DUI:
- Up to a $2,000 fine
- A jail sentence of 3-180 days
- Loss of driver’s license up to one year
- An annual fee of $1,000 or $2,000 for 3 years to retain a driver’s license
There can also be aggravating factors that make a DWI even more serious.
When these are present, jail time is more likely and fines are higher. In some cases, your offense may be dealt with as a felony rather than a misdemeanor.
Aggravating factors include:
- A BAC of 0.15 or higher
- A prior DWI conviction
- The presence of a child passenger in the vehicle
- An open container in the vehicle at the time you are pulled over
- Causing an accident that results in injury or death
Which is the easier charge to defend?
In some ways, a DUI is easier for the prosecution to prove because you can be charged for the presence of ANY alcohol in the system. The level of the reading cannot, therefore, be disputed.
However, in both DWI and DUI cases, officers must have reasonable suspicion to pull you over and probable cause that a crime has been committed.
Law enforcement officers and prosecution lawyers make mistakes and there is always a chance of getting the charges against you dropped.
That largely depends on the skills and prowess of your DWI lawyer.
DUI or DWI: Get an experienced lawyer
If you are charged with DWI or DUI in San Antonio, the potentially life-changing consequences mean that you need an experienced lawyer to start defending your name as soon as possible after being arrested and charged.
I’m 100-percent dedicated to DWI and experienced in all aspects of DWI cases and securing case dismissals.
So, if you’re facing a DWI charge in Texas, call or text 210-920-1281 today for a free case evaluation with me or complete our online contact form.
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