DUI vs. DWI: What’s Are the Main Differences?


When do most drunk driving accidents happen?

On the weekends, between midnight and 3:00 a.m. Police officers tend to be extra vigilant during those early morning hours. The moment a driver gives reasonable suspicion that they might be under the influence, an officer has full authority to pull them over.

However, being pulled over because you’re driving erratically doesn’t instantly mean you’ll face a drunk driving charge. Instead of a DUI, you could wind up having to deal with a DWI.

What is the difference between a DUI vs. DWI? Keep reading to find out.


It’s common to hear people refer to DUIs and DWI as the same thing. However, they’re very different. When it comes to DUI vs. DWI, it helps understand what the acronym stands for.

DUI is short for the phrase driving under the influence. Whereas DWI is short for the phrase driving while intoxicated. In some states, a DWI is considered driving while impaired.

What makes these charges different? Typically, a DWI will carry more serious penalties than a standard DUI. You can visit here for more tips about dealing with both charges.

DWI Provides Absolute Proof

When you’re charged with a DWI, there’s absolutely no doubt that you were under the influence. Officers will have test results to prove that there was some type of drugs in your system. IN a lot of cases, individuals wind up getting charged with the DUI and a DWI later once their blood labs come back.

DUI Advantage

When somebody is charged with a DUI but they don’t undergo testing at the accident scene, they may have a legal advantage. With the right DUI lawyer, you could argue that you were never intoxicated. If there’s a lack of test results to prove toxication, the DUI case could be dismissed.

States With Harshest Penalties

The extent of the penalties varies depending on where you live. Where are the laws for DUI and DWI the toughest? Arizona is at the top of the list. Even first-time offenders can deal with jail time, massive signs, and other repercussions.

Utah also has a low DUI threshold. While a lot of states allow you to have a blood alcohol limit of 08%, Utah feels disagrees. In Utah, if you’re pulled over, and you have a blood alcohol level of 05%, you can be cited with a DUI.

Next, Washington, Massachusetts, and Ohio also have harsher than normal penalties. For instance, Massachusetts is well known for requiring offenders to spend the most amount of time in jail.

Whereas, Ohio is well known for its willingness to take away an offender’s license. If you experience a DUI in Ohio, you could be without your license for a year or more.

Preparing for a Pullover

What should you do if you’re getting pulled over for a DUI? If you follow the right steps, you can help set yourself up with a legal advantage. Whereas behaving poorly during a pullover could mean you wind up with more charges.

The very first thing you should do is remain calm. You can check out these science backed tips for staying as calm as possible.

Why does being calm and peaceful matter? You need to behave normally. The last thing you want is for your nerves to cause you to make a mistake that’s attributed to being drunk.

Be sure to use your turning signal, and pull over as safely and quickly as possible. Next, come to a complete stop. Remember, the officer is recording everything you’re doing through their dashcam. If you fail to stop properly, it could go against your DUI case.

Be Nice Without Incriminating Yourself

It might seem like common sense, but be as polite as you can to the officer. The officer’s body cam is recording both audio and video of the pullover. Take a moment to brush up on your etiquette skills, so you can come across as sophisticated and kind.

If witnesses watch the officer’s video later on down the road; you don’t want to come across as rude or unreasonable. We suggest being overly polite. Refer to the officer as Sir or Ma’am, and resist the urge to argue.

Even if you feel like the officer is being too harsh, stay calm and neutral.

Next, never admit to drinking. Of course, you don’t want to lie to officers. However, refusing to admit to something isn’t the same as lying.

When the officer pulls you over, you’re legally required to provide them with specific information. However, that information doesn’t include answers about whether or not you’ve been drinking.

Instead, you’ll need to let the police officers know your name, provide them with your driver’s license, registration, and car insurance papers. If the officers start asking incriminating questions, you don’t have to answer them.

When somebody asks you, how much have you had to drink tonight? Your best response would be to remain silent. Don’t say anything. The conversation is being recorded; anything you say could be used against you.

Even mumbling something could be seen as a sign of admittance. That’s why silence is your friend. Only give the officers the information you legally have to, and let them do the rest of the talking.

Should You Take a Field Sobriety Test?

What if the officers ask you to submit to a field sobriety test? Do you have to do it? Not at all.

It’s within the officer’s rights to ask you to step out of your vehicle. If they ask you to step out of your car, do so right away. However, don’t rush to stand up because you stumble.

If you’re off balance getting out of the car, it could be seen as a sign of drunken behavior. You should also avoid using the door or vehicle to lean on. Instead, stand up straight.

Next, avoid the urge to slam your door shut behind you. The last thing you want to do is come across as violent or argumentative. Once you’re out of the vehicle, you don’t have to perform any field sobriety test. The tests are 100% voluntary.

You can respectfully refuse the sobriety test. Simply let the officer know that your lawyer advised you never to submit to a sobriety test in the field.

Why Not Submit?

You might think that submitting to a sobriety test is a great way to clear your name. However, whether or not you’ve been drinking, a field test can wind up causing you more problems than good.

f you don’t have perfect balance, it’s almost a guarantee that you’ll fail. It doesn’t matter how much alcohol you consume; sobriety tests are set up to make you fail.

DUI Lawyer Advice for Breathalyzers

Sobriety field tests aren’t the only thing that officers are going to throw your way. You might also be asked to take a breathalyzer, provide blood or urine. After being pulled over for DUI, politely decline any test the officer asks you to take.

Even if you’ve only had 1 beer, the test could wind up incriminating you in some way. For instance, breathalyzers are notorious for providing unreliable results.

Another reason to avoid a breathalyzer is that you’re going to be arrested no matter what. Even if you blow under the legal limit, the officer is still going to arrest you for a DUI.

Punishment for Refusal

If you were drinking and you’re pulled over by an officer, refusing the breathalyzer is your best choice. You should know that the refusal comes with a consequence. In most states, you’ll automatically have your license suspended for 1 year if you refuse a breathalyzer.

However, think about the alternative. If you blow on the breathalyzer and the results come back that you’re way above the blood alcohol limit, you could be facing a much longer license suspension.

It’s also important to note that simply failing one of the tests doesn’t automatically mean you’re guilty of a DUI or DWI. A good lawyer will be able to help raise a defense, even in the face of bad test results.

Challenging Test Results

Earlier, we mentioned that breathalyzers provide unreliable results. This is both a good and a bad thing. While receiving inaccurate results can be troublesome at first, your lawyer can use it as an arguing point.

Your lawyer will have to argue that there was some type of flaw in the testing procedure. Perhaps the officers didn’t follow all of the proper protocols when administering the test. Or maybe the results weren’t well documented.

Overcoming Officer Testimony

Let’s say a police officer testifies that you were behaving drunk. How can you fight a cop’s words against your own? Since the DUI has to prove that you were impaired while driving the vehicle, an officer’s observation of your behavior matters.

The officer might notice that you smell like alcohol, have slurred speech, or we’re talking erratically. These are all things that will go against you with a DUI charge.

Your lawyer will have to take a counter approach by challenging the officer’s ability to make those observations. It doesn’t always work out when a lawyer challenges an officer’s opinion. However, in certain situations, it qualifies for an immediate case dismissal.

It’s all going to depend on what the officer observed and how well they reported their observations in the report. If the officer observed that you smell like alcohol but failed to write it in the report, chances are you’ll be able to invalidate the rest of their observations.

DUI and DWI Investigation Rights

Whenever a criminal investigation is taking place, you have the right to consult with an attorney. During a DUI or DWI investigation, you’re right becomes even more paramount. This is because the time frames of a DWI and DUI investigation are crucial in determining your innocence.

After the officers pull your vehicle over, make it known that you would like to contact your attorney as soon as possible. If you’re not given a chance to contact your attorney, you can use that against law enforcement later on. An experienced lawyer will be able to use the breach of your rights to help dismiss the case.

Reasonable Cause To Stop

You should also be aware that police officers can’t simply pull you over because they feel like it. An officer has to have reasonable suspicion before they can initiate a pullover, legally.

It’ll be up to the state to prove that all of the evidence during the investigation was obtained lawfully. This begins with a reasonable search and seizure.

For instance, let’s say a police officer stopped the vehicle because they had a gut feeling the driver was intoxicated. This would be an illegal search and seizure.

Whereas pulling someone over for swerving, is okay. It’s reasonable to suspect a swerving car has a drunk driver.

Life After Conviction

Let’s say you’re convicted with the DUI charge. What happens next?

If you think you have a substance abuse program, try joining a rehabilitation program. Sometimes, a DUI can be a sign of a more serious underlying problem. An attorney may be able to get the court to reduce your penalties since you’re seeking help.

You might be dealing with a compulsive addiction that’s driving you to make unhealthy choices. If you have multiple DUI convictions, then you really should consider seeking outside help. If you don’t think a rehabilitation center is right for you, then you could also try an outpatient approach.

For instance, there are organizations such as alcoholics anonymous, and other recovery groups, that are completely free. You’ll be able to use proven therapy methods to overcome whatever type of addiction you’re dealing with.

Finding Your DWI Attorney

When it comes to DUI vs. DWI, it’s clear to see that both charges can bring a world of trouble. Since you have a lot of rights and opportunities to defend yourself, we suggest taking immediate action. Reach out to an experienced DUI attorney today, and see if you might have a case.

Be completely honest with your lawyer, and take notes of the advice they provide. Before you know it, you could have your entire charge dismissed! If you like this article, then we’re sure you’ll like the rest of our site. Go ahead and take a look.