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DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) and DUI (Driving Under the Influence) are actually the same crime in Louisiana. There is no difference between the two.  Some states call it a DUI, and others call it a DWI.  See the below relevant portion of the DWI/DUI statute in Louisiana.


DUI vs. DWI: Are They Just the Same Cases?

You may have probably experienced it at least once, or have heard about some cases of people you know, people around you, or those being reported often in the news – the ones who are arrested and charged for driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI). Most of us have a knowledge that driving drunk can really get you in trouble with the authorities, but once you are told that your case is DUI, what does that mean? Is such a term just the same with DWI? In this article, we will go and find out the definitions of driving under the influence (DUI) and driving while intoxicated (DWI), and their differences in terms of causes, penalties and other things you have to do after being charged.

Driving under the influence (DUI) and driving while intoxicated (DWI) means essentially the same thing - that a certain driver is committing a crime because of operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and in such circumstance, they are endangering themselves and other people. The terms DUI and DWI are interchangeable in some states. But how exactly different are DUI and DWI from one another?


Influence vs. Intoxication: The Real Difference

Perhaps the best explanation of the difference between DUI and DWI that we could tell in here is the fact that driving under the influence (DUI) refers actually to the driver’s behavior, while driving while intoxicated (DWI) refers technically to blood alcohol content which is usually out after conducting an alcohol test to the driver.

The first one, which is “driving under the influence” or simply DUI, is the charge that is typically associated with drunk driving. However, it can also be applied to some drivers who are under the influence of drugs or certain medications. In many states, a person must actually be driving a vehicle in order to be convicted of a drunk driving offense, but nowadays, this is changing. More and more states are now using phrases such as “operating a vehicle”, being in “top of form”, “bottom of form” or “physical control of the vehicle”, in order to broaden the situations, in which one may be convicted of a DUI, such as sitting in the driver's seat with the keys in the ignition, even if the car itself is not moving.

On the other hand, DWI can actually stand for “driving while intoxicated” or “driving while impaired.” This term was very often used interchangeably with DUI since there are several similarities between the two terms. The drivers who are charged with DWI often pass a breath test, with results that are just below the legal limit. However, the drivers charged with DWI exhibit other indications of impairment, such as failing a field sobriety test or driving erratically.


Which One is Worse?

The definitions and repercussions of DUI and DWI charges vary, depending on the laws of every state on drunk driving. Many states use the two terms interchangeably, as they are legally treated as the same crime. However, some states differentiate between DUI and DWI offenses, with a DUI usually being the one with the lesser charge. In these cases, DUI usually signifies less intoxication, as determined by a person's blood alcohol content (BAC) at the time of the arrest.

In most states, the penalties for DUI and DWI are just the same. A first offense provided that there are no injuries, deaths, or any other aggravating circumstances, is a misdemeanor. However, it is still a serious crime. Why? You could pay thousands in fines, penalties, court costs, and impoundment fees – not to mention a hefty fee for DUI legal services. Not only that, for your license will probably be suspended, and worse, you may spend time in jail. And your car insurance premiums will surely skyrocket and remain high for a number of years.

On the other hand, a few states do consider DUI and DWI to be separate charges. DWI is a more serious offense, which means that a person is driving with a BAC of .08 or higher. DUI is usually a lesser charge when a driver is found to be impaired but has a BAC below .08. Every state has its own quirks in the DUI vs. DWI laws, however. For instance, in Maryland, DUI is more serious than DWI, but in the said state, DWI stands for “driving while impaired,” rather than driving while intoxicated.

A general rule here is that prosecutors in most states actually rely much more heavily on DWI charges than on DUI charges since the breathalyzer and blood-alcohol tests results provide more concrete scientific evidence than mere field sobriety test results. But in many states, the police may double-charge the drivers, one with DUI and another with DWI.


What a Driver Must Do to Avoid DUI and DWI

There is no simpler answer to this. Just do not drive your car after consuming alcohol or if you know that you are not feeling well or capable of driving safely. By doing this, you can avoid the potential stress, expense, and embarrassment of a DUI or DWI conviction. However, if such a thing would happen to you, it is important for you to know if you are charged with DUI or DWI according to their firsthand findings, and what penalties you have to pay and other processes you have to undergo in order to clear yourself out of trouble. And after that, you better have to learn your lesson about drinking and not driving. Getting a DUI or related offense is totally costly, inconvenient, and embarrassing. The ramifications and other records associated with it usually last for several years.

Surely you do now want such embarrassment to happen on you or any of your friends or loved ones, now what is the only surefire way to avoid getting a DUI, a DWI or any similar driving offense? If you are going to drive, think about your life and the lives of others – save that alcohol for some other time.


Operating a vehicle while intoxicated - La. R.S. 14:98

A.(1) The crime of operating a vehicle while intoxicated is the operating of any motor vehicle, aircraft, watercraft, vessel, or other means of conveyance when:

(a) The operator is under the influence of alcoholic beverages; or

(b) The operator's blood alcohol concentration is 0.08 percent or more by weight based on grams of alcohol per one hundred cubic centimeters of blood; or

(c) The operator is under the influence of any controlled dangerous substance listed in Schedule I, II, III, IV, or V as set forth in R.S. 40:964; or

(d)(i) The operator is under the influence of a combination of alcohol and one or more drugs which are not controlled dangerous substances and which are legally obtainable with or without a prescription.

(ii) It shall be an affirmative defense to any charge under this Subparagraph pursuant to this Section that the label on the container of the prescription drug or the manufacturer's package of the drug does not contain a warning against combining the medication with alcohol.

(e)(i) The operator is under the influence of one or more drugs which are not controlled dangerous substances and which are legally obtainable with or without a prescription.

(ii) It shall be an affirmative defense to any charge under this Subparagraph pursuant to this Section that the operator did not knowingly consume quantities of the drug or drugs which substantially exceed the dosage prescribed by the physician or the dosage recommended by the manufacturer of the drug.

Contact Baton Rouge DUI attorney, Carl Barkemeyer for a free consultation.

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