Is there a Difference Between DUI and DWI?
Like most drivers, you probably wouldn’t think twice about the difference between a DUI and a DWI until you are pulled over by an officer. Based on statistics, it’s not unlikely that you won’t be pulled over for such a thing. Even as the vehicle miles traveled fell by 13% due to COVID-19, drunk driving crashes increased by 9% in 2020.
Before you hire a DUI and DWI lawyer, you need to know what the terms mean, the difference between DUI and DWI, and which legal definition Pennsylvania uses. It will help you understand how to fight such a charge.
What Is DUI?
DUI stands for “driving under the influence” and is a term used when your ability to drive a vehicle was impaired under the influence of alcohol and/or other drugs. Other drugs include recreational substances like cocaine, opioids, and prescription drugs. However, alcohol consumption is the leading cause of DUI arrests in most states.
In Pennsylvania, drunk driving remains one of the topmost safety concerns on the road. In 2020, Pennsylvania State Troopers made 18,412 DUI arrests. In its effort to bring down DUI-related accidents, the state has developed a zero-tolerance policy toward driving under alcohol and drug influence.
What Is DWI?
DWI is an acronym for “driving while intoxicated.” In some states, it may stand for driving while impaired. The acronym may change depending on the state. Regardless, it also means driving under the influence of alcohol and other drugs, the same as a DUI.
You could get pulled over and charged with a DWI if your alcohol level is above the legal limit. If you are found under the influence of other drugs, such as cocaine, you could face other charges in addition to the DWI. That’s why you must hire an experienced DUI and DWI attorney regardless of how trivial the charges may appear.
Difference between DUI and DWI
There is no major difference between DUI and DWI. Most states use only one of the two terms to outline their drunk driving and driving-under-the-influence laws. However, some states use other terminologies. For example, in Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, they call it OUI, which stands for “operating under the influence.”
All these terminologies essentially mean that the officer found you too impaired to continue to drive. Usually, you will be asked to blow into a breathalyzer or undergo a blood test to check if your alcohol level is over the legal limit.
If it is under the legal limit, but you appear impaired, the office will bring in a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) officer. The DRE officer will conduct a series of tests to check if you are under the influence of other substances. You may be charged with a DUI or DWI, depending on your situation. However, you can call and have your DUI and DWI lawyer present throughout the process in most states.
DUI Vs DWI: Which Is the Correct Term in Pennsylvania?
When it comes to DUI Vs DWI, the correct term is a DUI in the Keystone State since the state revamped its DUI laws in 2004. The other major changes you should be aware of involve lowering the BAC (blood alcohol content) threshold to 0.08 from 0.10. The new legislation also reduced the penalties for first-time offenders but increased them for repeat offenders.
As of now, Pennsylvania divides DUIs into three tiers based on the BAC levels. They include general impairment (.08 to .099% BAC), high BAC (.10 to .159% BAC), and highest BAC (.16% and higher). The law also requires all offenders to undergo an alcohol and drug evaluation, usually a breath or blood test. If you refuse to take a breath or chemical test, you may be subject to the highest BAC penalties.
Legal Help for DUI/DWI
The DUI laws in Pennsylvania are strict, not to mention complex. Even as a first-time offender, you could be facing jail time in addition to a license suspension and fines.
However, if you hire a DUI and DWI attorney, you may be able to negotiate a plea to a lesser (non-DUI) offense or reduced penalties. Our lawyers can also help you get into Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD), a program for first-time offenders that takes prison time off the table. Or depending on your situation, your legal counsel might be able to find a way to beat the charges altogether. In short, the sooner you get legal help, the better.
With a DUI on your driving record, you wouldn’t be able to drive freely anymore. If you want to find a way to resolve this issue with a lesser penalty or avoid going to prison, you should hire a DUI lawyer at Mazzoni Valvano Szewczyk & Karam. Contact us today for a free case review.