The terms DWI and DUI are similar but not identical. DWI stands for Driving While Impaired. DUI stands for Driving while Under the Influence. There are different requirements for proving each type of offense. The penalties are also different. In general, the penalties for a DWI are less severe than the penalties for a DUI – which is why defense lawyers may try to reduce your DUI charge to a DWI charge.
For the record, the ONLY time you ever get charged with a DWI is if you refuse the breath test. If you want to know more, you can listen to me tell you all about it here:
DUI and DWI charges
DWI offenses and DUI offenses are set forth in the Transportation statutes of the Maryland Code. There are five possible DWI and DUI charges:
DUI: Driving under the influence of alcohol
- A person may not drive or attempt to drive any vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.
- A person may not drive or attempt to drive any vehicle while the person is under the influence of alcohol per se. Per se charges are based solely on the driver’s blood alcohol content level.
DWI: Driving while impaired
- A person may not drive or attempt to drive any vehicle while impaired by alcohol.
- Driving while impaired by drugs or drugs and alcohol
- Driving while Impaired by controlled dangerous substances.
The degree of proof needed for a DWI conviction is lower than that for a DUI conviction – when the offense is based solely on alcohol:
- DUI requires a showing that the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) at the time of the offense was .08 or more. Generally, the driver’s ability to operate the vehicle must be substantially reduced.
- DWI requires a showing that the BAC was .07 or more. Generally, the driver’s ability to drive their car must be decreased to some extent.
DUI and DWI penalties
The penalties for each offense increase with repeat violations. Additional penalties may be added if a minor child was in the vehicle was in the car. Other additional penalties may also apply. The penalties set forth are for first-time offenses:
- A standard DUI. Imprisonment for up to one year and fines up to $1,000.
- A DUI per se. Imprisonment for up to one year and fines up to $1,000.
- A DWI based on alcohol. Jail time up to two months and fines up to $500.
- A DWI based on drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol. The penalties for this violation are the same as for a DWI based on just alcohol. Imprisonment up to two months and fines up to $500
- A DWI based on a controlled dangerous substance. This is the most severe DWI. The penalties are up to one year in prison and up to $1,000 in fines.
In addition to imprisonment and fines, drivers who are convicted of a DWI or a DUI will have points added to their driver’s record. Their license will likely be suspended and, after their sentence is complete and they can drive again, their insurance premiums will skyrocket.
Drivers who refuse to submit to the tests they gave their implied consent to may also lose their license.
- What’s the difference between a DWI and DUI?
- What should I do if I’m pulled over for a DUI or DWI?
- DUI DWI Checkpoints: Know Your Rights
At Drew Cochran, Attorney at Law, our Annapolis and Ellicott City DWI and DUI lawyers understand how one drink too many can change your life. We have been fighting for drivers accused of DWI and DUI for 20 years. We work to have evidence of alcohol and drug test suppressed. We fight to have charges dismissed when police didn’t have grounds to stop you. We’re ready to help you contest the charges or negotiate pleas to lesser charges. For help now, call us at 410-271-1892, or complete our contact form to speak with a strong attorney.
Just remember: Keep Calm – and Call Drew.