DWI vs. DUI: What’s the Difference?

Did you know that nearly one-third of all traffic deaths are due to drunk drivers? Driving under the influence (DUI) and driving while impaired (DWI) puts everyone at risk. The two terms share similar meanings in that you’re not in complete control of your actions.

DWI vs DUI definitions can vary by state, but there are similarities in how they are addressed. If you get pulled over and pass the alcohol sobriety test, you could also get tested for other drugs in your system. Keep in mind that prescription drugs are also considered as DUI.

Let’s see how DUIs and DWIs are considered according to state laws.

Interpretations of DWI vs DUI

Driving while impaired can refer to both alcohol and drugs, while driving under the influence deals specifically with alcohol. Some states differ in definition, with DWI standing for driving while intoxicated, which deals only with alcohol. DUI would then refer to drugs or alcohol.

This distinction may seem like semantics, but in states like North Carolina, it matters a lot. Zero-tolerance states like North Carolina treat DUI as a less-serious charge referring to minors under 21 driving with any alcohol present. Anyone over 21 gets upgraded to a DWI if they test over 0.08% BAC.

All of these rules apply to the driver who has been found driving while impaired. Their blood-alcohol level doesn’t need to exceed 0.08% to get charged with a DWI. Failing the sobriety test or exhibiting impaired behavior is grounds enough for an arrest.

The officer may not know what is impairing judgment, but if they have probable cause, they can hold you for further testing.

Proving DUIs

If you are suspected of DUI but did not fail the sobriety test or breathalyzer, a Drug Recognition Expert is needed to proceed. Oftentimes, this is the same officer who pulled you over. They will then make the determination if you are under the influence of drugs.

If they do find that there is probable cause, they will place you under arrest and charge you based on North Carolina law. That means you’ll have to spend time in jail while awaiting your court hearing unless you get a bail bond out.

DUI Defenses

An experienced DUI attorney has a number of options to try to win a DUI case. It involves smart navigation of state law and careful documentation of evidence.

The Legality of the Stop

The arresting officer must follow specific procedures or risk having their case thrown out. Skipping or incorrectly following guidelines nullifies evidence. An unlawful search and seizure is one example of breaking guidelines.

The attorney can file what is known as a motion to suppress. If this motion succeeds, then the case will rule in your favor.

Challenging the Arrest

Being pulled over and arrested based on probable cause is a tricky procedure. It’s possible that the officer did not gather enough evidence to make the arrest. They need proof that you are breaking the law, which involves evidence of impairment.

You can get off if the case involves you sitting in a vehicle while under the influence. If the vehicle is not in motion, you aren’t breaking any laws.

Blood Draw or Breathalyzer Results

It is possible to challenge the results of the methods of testing by the police. These methods have a lot of variables that could affect the outcome of the tests. It is one of the most litigated areas of a DUI case.

Drawing blood is an especially delicate subject, as nobody can draw it based on demand alone. There are procedures dictating when, where, and how blood is taken that are required or the case is thrown out.

Breathalyzer tests must involve a properly calibrated device, a 20-minute observation period, and certification of operation.

Arrest and Proceedings

A DUI conviction and guilty verdict mean loss of license and fines. You will lose your license even if you take a plea deal. The minimal sentencing will comprise of community service and probation in order to retrieve your driver’s license.

You will also need to attend defensive driving lessons. Remember, all of this can apply to mistakenly driving under the influence of prescription drugs. Ignorance is not a strong argument in most cases, so you’ll need to practice care when receiving new medications.

It is possible that you will undergo an evaluation for possible abuse patterns involving drugs and alcohol. This evaluation helps place convicted members in an appropriate substance abuse treatment programs. AA and NA meetings, as well as dedicated facilities, are chosen by the state.


After meeting the requirements to obtain a license, you will then have to get special insurance. SR-22 insurance is reserved for DWI and DUI offenders, which indicates you as a high-risk to companies. Expect to pay about triple the rate for premiums.

You’ll need to keep this insurance for up to three years before your rates lower. In some cases, you will need an ignition locking device that uses a breathalyzer. You must blow into the integrated device before you can turn on your car.

You’ll also need to pay a fee to use this device. A DWI is very expensive and time-consuming and comes with a bad stigma attached to your record. Being extra cautious and disciplined is the only way to avoid driving down the wrong path.

A Fighting Chance

Whether DWI vs DUI, you can’t afford to risk getting arrested. Prevention is the only way to avoid trouble. Drunk and impaired drivers cause too much death and despair in this country.

Although, if you ever feel like you’ve been wrongly accused of driving while impaired, you need a good attorney who understands. You need someone who is tenacious, empathetic, and experienced. At Amistad Bail and Immigration Bonds, we can help clear your name and save you from unfair legal cases.

Contact us today for a free consultation and get the justice you deserve.