DWI/DUI Charges: 5 Things You Should Know

DUI/DWI charges can have serious consequences. Since you may have been tempted at some point to have some drinks and then drive, or you know people who do on a regular basis, there may be some questions you have about the legalities of it.  Here are five of the most common.

What is the Difference between a DUI or a DWI charge?

DUI is "driving under the influence" of alcohol or drugs, and DWI is "driving while intoxicated" with alcohol. In some states these charges are virtually interchangeable, and in other states the charges may have differing severity and penalties. OWI is another term some states use that means "operating while impaired."

What are the chances you can get the DUI/DWI dropped down to a lesser charge or dropped altogether?

It is possible to get charges reduced or dropped, and this will depend on a number of factors that may include:

  • Whether the police officers had probable cause to stop you or search your person/vehicle.

  • Whether your Breathalyzer reading was very close to state limit (.08% in all states).

  • Whether this is your first DUI/DWI charge.

  • Whether you were driving because it was an emergency situation or because you were under duress.

In some states, there is a lesser charge called "wet and reckless" that you might plead down to.

If you are a minor, will the prosecutor cut you a break?

The prosecutor will be less inclined to lower the charges if you are under 21 years of age. This is true for several reasons which are:

  • Young people who drive while drinking are usually more impaired and have consumed a higher amount of alcohol.

  • They are more likely to drive at higher rates of speed.

  • More people die or are severely injured in accidents with young offenders.

It depends on the state, but a lot of them have zero tolerance policies for alcohol consumption for minors.

Do you have to submit to a Breathalyzer or a field sobriety test?

You can refuse to take a field sobriety test but you could receive a suspension of your driver's license if you refuse a Breathalyzer test. It is possible that this would still be a better move than submitting to the BAC test since non-compliance is a lesser charge than DUI. Just politely refuse by saying "No, thank you officer."

What can I expect if I am convicted of a DUI or DWI charge?

It depends on the state, but if this is your first charge you are generally looking at one or more of these things:

  • Suspension of your driver's license for a period of time.

  • Necessity of high risk insurance for some time afterwards.

  • Fines/fees.

  • Some jail-time or some form of probation.

  • Community service.

  • Driver's education classes.

The more violations you have, the stiffer the penalties, and you could face prison time for multiple offenses. An ignition interlock device may be required for you to drive after your driver's license is restored in some states, after a second offense.

If you ever are charged with a DUI/DWI offense, you should discuss your situation with a criminal defense lawyer.