DUI and DWI are two terms that are often used interchangeably to describe the same offense. Civilians and even law enforcement will use it to describe a situation that involves an individual who has operated a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
If your offense occurred in California, you need only concern yourself with the term DUI. California does not define or apply the term DWI in any manner.
In many jurisdictions in the United States, the term DUI is used as an acronym for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both. In other jurisdictions, the term DWI is used as an acronym for driving while intoxicated. While the charges may have slight variations in their exact legal definitions, both generally refer to the act of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.
Also, some states use the terms to describe how intoxicated the suspected individual is when the illegal act occurred. Other states use it to make a distinction between cases that involve driving under the influence of prescription or illegal drugs and driving under the influence of alcohol. While some states use either DUI or DWI, there are other states that apply both terms to describe different conduct and different offenses.
When the two terms are used to describe two different levels of offense, a DUI would be considered the lesser offense. A DWI would be used to describe the greater offense, which typically carries a heavier sentence. The level of the offense is typically determined by blood test that can determine blood alcohol concentration.
Individuals who have been accused of a DWI in states that use the two terms to describe the degree of intoxication may be able to use the resources of a DUI defense attorney. An experienced and knowledgeable DUI lawyer may be able to get the courts to reduce the charges from a DWI to a DUI, which can sometimes result in a lesser sentence.
Some states use the terms DWI and DUI to describe what manner caused the intoxication. A DUI in these states describes being over the legal limit due to alcohol use, while DWI describes being intoxicated due to illegal or prescription drugs. The sentence for both a DUI and DWI charge in these states are usually similar, but it may vary depending upon the state the offense occurred in.
Whether faced with a DWI or DUI charge in a state that uses the terms interchangeably to describe separate drunk driving offenses or to label degrees of intoxication, seeking the advice of a DUI defense attorney will help.