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The Difference Between a DWI and a DUI
The Difference Between a DWI and a DUI

DUI is an acronym for Driving Under the Influence.  You can be charged with DUI for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.  DWI stands for Driving While Intoxicated or in some cases Driving While Impaired.

The two terms are generally used interchangeably and both describe impaired or drunk driving. Some state laws refer to the offense of drunk driving as DUI and others call it DWI.  In North Carolina we refer to drunk driving as DWI or Impaired Driving.

However, in states where both terms are used, DWI sometimes refers to driving while intoxicated from alcohol, while DUI is used when the driver is charged with being under the influence of alcohol or drugs.  In North Carolina the legal standard is 0.08 blood alcohol content (BAC).

There are other acronyms for drunk driving. OUI, for operating under the influence, is used in Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The “operating” distinction encompasses more than just driving the vehicle. Even if the vehicle is stopped and not running, someone can be charged with operating under the influence.

Driving While Impaired in North Carolina and “Appreciably Impaired”

Both charges mean the arresting officer has reason to believe the driver is too impaired to continue to drive. In some jurisdictions, drivers can be charged with impaired driving (or driving under the influence) even if they do not meet the blood alcohol concentration levels for legal intoxication.  

In North Carolina the legal standard is whether or not the driver is appreciably impaired and someone can be convicted based on that standard even if they blow a 0.07 BAC or possibly lower in North Carolina.  Someone can also be proven to be appreciably impaired by using marijuana when driving.  For example, if you fail a field sobriety test or otherwise show signs of impairment, you can be charged with driving while impaired even if your blood-alcohol concentration is under the legal limit of 0.08 in North Carolina.

Drugged Driving Is Impaired Driving in North Carolina

If you appear to be impaired from prescription drugs (or non-prescription drugs like marijuana) to the arresting officer, but your breathalyzer test shows that you are not under the influence of alcohol, you can be charged with Driving While Impaired in North Carolina.

If you are charged with DWI in the Wake County, North Carolina area you need a Raleigh DWI Lawyer to help with your case.  Whether you are charged with DUI, DWI or DUI an experienced criminal defense lawyer can answer your questions and make sure you understand your rights.


Thanks to our friends and contributors from Wiley Nickel Law Firm for their insight into the differences between a DWI and a DUI.


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