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How does a DUI compare with a DWI?

On Behalf of | Oct 28, 2022 | DWI |

Getting arrested for unsafe driving in Virginia could warrant a DUI or DWI charge. Although many people interchangeably use these two terms, there are differences. This is how a DUI compares with a DWI.

Understanding DUI versus DWI

Although similar, driving under the influence (DUI) and driving while impaired (DWI) have slight differences. They both mean that a person was driving after having consumed alcohol or taken drugs. If drugs are the culprit, they don’t have to be illegal; a person could face charges even if they took over-the-counter drugs or those legally prescribed to them.

The main difference with these charges is that DUI normally refers to a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC). The legal limit is 0.08%, but a person can be charged when their limit is over that amount. DWI is usually considered more serious and means that the individual is incapable of safely driving due to impairment.

How do police determine DUI versus DWI?

If a police officer pulls a driver over on suspicion of either DUI or DWI, they must have probable cause first. This might include erratic driving, speeding, violating traffic laws or ignoring traffic signs or signals. However, other factors can also constitute probable cause such as a light being out on the vehicle or a flat tire.

After the officer has stopped the person, they might ask them to take a field sobriety test or a breath test. Either of these options is used to determine whether a driver might be under the influence or impaired by a substance. Sometimes, drivers refuse to submit to a breath test, which is their legal right. However, it indicates guilt and could later work against them.

Testing sometimes works to a person’s advantage though. If their BAC level turns out to be on the lower side, they could be charged with DUI instead of DWI.