dui vs dwi | Is DWI worse than DUI?

Spread the love

dui vs dwi, Is there a difference between the two? It depends, States have different definitions and terms for DWIs and DUIs. Both charges should never between taken lightly, as they both result in severe consequences. While what a DWI means and how DUI conviction is treated may vary, there are some general truths about each.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 29 percent of motor vehicle traffic fatalities is caused by alcohol. Meanwhile, 16 percent of motor vehicle crashes are caused by drugs.

The meaning of dui vs dwi

DUI is an acronym for Driving under the Influence. This is generally assessed by using a Breathalyzer test to ascertain the BAC: blood alcohol content/blood alcohol concentration. The federal limit is 0.08 percent, but some states have stricter limits. In the case of underage drivers, limits are typically set at 0.02 percent. However, states, like Illinois and New York, have adopted zero-tolerance policies for underage drivers. Limits may also be lower for drivers of commercial vehicles.

Where an arresting officer witnessed weaving and other erratic driving, a driver can be given a DUI even without a Breathalyzer test. In such cases, the charge is based on field sobriety test.

States can also issue a DWI, which stands for Driving While Impaired. Typically, the purpose of a DWI is to charge people who are impaired by substances other than alcohol. These substances can be either legal or illegal.

It is important to note that some states define DWI as Driving While Intoxicated; these charges are treated the same as a DUI.

Is DWI worse than DUI?

Generally, DWI is more severe than a DUI, as it implies a higher level of intoxication. As such, DWI comes with harsher penalties. In some cases, a first-time offender may get a DWI downgraded to a DUI.

Note that both offenses are serious and will result in both administrative and criminal charges. These can include:

  • Alcohol or substance abuse classes.
  • Community service.
  • Increased costs for car insurance.
  • Jail time.
  • Loss of driving privileges.
  • Mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device.
  • Tickets, fines, and court fees.

In states with “implied consent” laws, drivers are required to take a Breathalyzer test at the request of a law enforcement officer. Refusal to comply almost always results in a mandatory suspension of driving privileges. Some states can even revoke a motorist’s driver’s license.

How does a DWI vs DUI offense affect insurance rates?

A DUI or DWI charge means significant changes for your insurance. Rate increases could mean spending more on insurance every year from three to ten years after the charge. Rate increases usually constitute the majority of expenses incurred due to a DUI vs DWI charge.

If your DWI is followed by other violations, especially an accident, the complications gets even more difficult. It also increases the likelihood of an insurance company dropping your coverage altogether. In some cases, you may need to go through the state to find coverage.

Different insurance companies treat a DWI offense differently. It mainly depends on how long ago the offense took place. One company may lower rates after two years and another may wait four years to reduce rates. Many states require that drivers provide proof of insurance by having their insurance company file an SR-22, or similar form, directly with the DMV.

Below is a shortlist of states with unique approaches to charging DUIs/DWIs:


Arizona may be one of the harshest states around. DWI is generally worse than a DUI. In Arizona, the offence never leaves your driving record, though they do have a limit on the length of time within which insurance companies can penalize a driver.

Also, any driver who refuses a breath test in this “implied consent” state gets a mandatory 12-month license suspension.

You can learn more about the specifics of Arizona DUI car insurance rates here.


California also has a mandatory loss of driving privileges for a driver refuses a Breathalyzer test. However, the suspension here only lasts for six months. Also, California is one of many zero-tolerance states for minors.

The consequences of a DUI also lasts for a long time in California.You are not allowed to receive discounts on insurance for ten years following the offense. This is operational even if your insurance company no longer penalizes you for a DUI

DUI/DWI in Georgia

In Georgia, a driver can either be charged with “DUI per se” or a “DUI-less-safe.”

A “DUI per se” is given when a driver exceeds the legal limit. However, a “DUI-less-safe” means that a driver was intoxicated with or without alcohol, to the point that impaired the driver.

DUI/DWI in Michigan

Michigan uses the terms OWI and OWVI to charge people with driving under the influence. OWI stands for Operating While under the Influence of drugs or alcohol while OWVI stands for Operating While Visibly Impaired. OWI is more severe than OWVI. And it also almost always results in a minimum 180-day license suspension.

An OWVI conviction only requires that the driver showed visible signs of impairment (for example, failing a field sobriety test). OWVI has a mandatory 90-day suspension.

DUI/DWI in Minnesota

In Minnesota, there is no legal difference between DUI or DWI. They are often used interchangeably. The courts do however recognize a difference in “aggravating factors,” such as: a BAC above .15 percent, the presence of a child under the age of 16, and a prior DWI conviction within the previous ten years. The previous conviction does not need to be from the state of Minnesota.

There is no right to refuse a Breathalyzer in this state. Doing so will result in criminal penalties.

DUI/DWI in Missouri

Missouri have a special designation for people suspected of Driving under the Influence of Drugs (DUID). A DUID is a more serious charge. Missouri also has strict “implied consent” laws. Refusing a blood, breath, urine, or saliva test leads to license revocation for a full year. After such revocation, the driver must install an ignition interlock device for at least six months.

DUI/DWI in South Carolina

In South Carolina, there are no differences between then DUI and DWI. However, motorists can be charged with one for showing signs of impaired driving even if they test under the legal limit. First offenders face a minimum 6-month license suspension. Also, temporary provisional licenses which allow motorists privileges to drive only to work are only issued to drivers who test below .15 percent BAC.s

Leave a Comment