Common parlance would often make DUI and DWI as one and the same offense. Legally speaking though, DUI and DWI are two different and separate offenses, depending on the state law where the offense was committed.
DUI is an acronym for driving under the influence while DWI is for driving while intoxicated. There are some states that make DUI and DWI as one offense, being ascribed as impaired or drunk driving. In other states though, DUI refers to driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs while DWI is for driving while intoxicated with alcohol. In both these instances, the arresting officer has a reasonable belief that the driver’s capacity to operate the vehicle is impaired.
This level often is set between 0.05% or 0.08%. This means, the amount of alcohol diluted in an individual’s bloodstream. When the individual’s reading is above the legal limit, there is no need to prove impairment or inability to operate the vehicle as this is sufficient proof for conviction.
The application of this law is not limited to just operating road vehicles, as this applies to operation of boats, aircraft, cycling and other equipment. Furthermore, scientific testing procedures have improved as the major issue regarding application of these techniques is their inconsistency. This improvement in technology moves the determination of impairment from the subjective to the objective. This is where field sobriety tests have come under fire, as these tests do not determine the level of impairment of the subject. In reality, field sobriety tests are “a battery of three tests administered and evaluated in a standardized manner to obtain validated indicators of impairment and establish probable cause for arrest.”
When determining the impairment of the individual, the focus would be the substance and its effect on the individual after consumption. One way this is determined is through the use of breathalyzers, as this determines at the scene of the crime the actual level of a controlled substance currently present in the body. When arrested after the FST and the Breathalyzer test, the next step would be undertaking a blood test to determine the actual levels of the individual. While there is an issue as to the diffusive effect of alcohol when absorbed and then released by the body, these three tests would provide circumstantial evidence of whether the accused was under the influence when operating a motor vehicle.
Thus in application, there are subtle differences between DUI and DWI. Most of the variations are based on the law applicable to the offense committed. There are also variations as to the imposable penalty, whether it is a misdemeanor or felony offense. So, when pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated, it is important to know one’s rights in this situation. Be it a DUI or DWI offense, this is a serious matter that requires proper legal guidance and advice.