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DUI or DWI? Understanding The Similar Charges and Their Differences

 Almost 30 people die every day from a car crash that involves a drunk driver. That’s one lost life every 50 minutes. In a single year alone, over 1 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence.

As often as people discuss drunk driving cases, many people still don’t know the difference between DUI and DWI. Do you? If not, that’s okay!

We’ll review everything you need to know about DUI and DWI charges in this guide. By learning how to differentiate the two, you can learn how to properly protect your rights. Keep reading to learn more about the difference between DUI and DWI charges!

What is a DUI Charge?

DUI stands for “driving under the influence”. You can get charged with a DUI offense if you’re driving while there’s alcohol or drugs in your bloodstream.

Some states will charge a driver with a DUI if their blood-alcohol content (BAC) is as long as 0.01%. In most states, however, the BAC limits 0.08%.

Both your age and your state’s BAC limit could affect whether or not you’re charged with a DUI.

An officer might pull you over if they believe you were driving erratically. Before charging you with a DUI, the officer will likely test your BAC using a breathalyzer. However, an officer can also charge you with a DUI if they suspect you’re under the influence.

For example, let’s say the breathalyzer’s results don’t indicate you’re under the influence. If the arresting officer believes you’re impaired based on your behavior, they can still charge you.

If an officer isn’t sure if you’re under the influence of drugs, they can call a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE). The DRE can arrive on the scene to perform multiple tests to confirm you’re driving under the influence.

A DRE will use more than a simple breathalyzer test. Their evaluation process can confirm you’re using prescription or nonprescription medications while driving. These drugs could impair your ability to drive safely.

The arresting offer can then charge you with a DUI.

In other words, you can still get charged with a DUI even if you never had a drink!

DUI Laws in Utah

In Utah, you could get charged with a DUI if:

  • You have enough alcohol in your body for a blood or breath alcohol concentration of 0.8 grams or more when tested
  • You’re under the influence of alcohol, any drug, or both that renders you incapable of driving a car safely
  • You have a blood or breath alcohol concentration of 0.5 grams or more while driving

In most cases, you’ll get charged with a class B misdemeanor if you’re charged with a DUI. However, aggravating factors could turn that misdemeanor into a class A or felony.

For example, you could get charged with a felony if you have previous convictions or someone is injured as a result of your driving.

If you received a DUI charge in Utah, don’t try to navigate the situation alone. Instead, it’s important to hire a qualified DUI lawyer. They can help you navigate the legal situation and protect your rights.

It’s important to find a lawyer with prior experience in DUI cases. Their previous experience can give you an advantage. They’ll also remain up-to-date with any recent changes to laws and procedures.

For example, the legal BAC level changed with 0.08% to 0.05% in Utah in December 2018.

Make sure to contact a lawyer within 10 days of your arrest. You’ll only have 10 days after you’re arrested to request a hearing. Then, your lawyer can contest the suspension of your driver’s license.

If you don’t act quickly, however, you’ll lose your driver’s license and receive a citation.

What’s a DWI?

DWI stands for “driving while intoxicated.” In some states, however, it can mean “driving while impaired.”

Some states recognize a difference between DUI and DWI charges based on whether you were drinking or using drugs. If you receive a DWI in these states, it could indicate you were drinking while impaired by drugs.

Again, it depends on what state you’re in while driving under the influence.

Understanding the Difference

What’s the difference between DUI and DWI charges, exactly?

In some states, there’s no difference between a DUI and DWI. Some states use both terms to refer to the same offense. It often depends on where you’re pulled over while driving under the influence or while intoxicated.

In either case, you’re driving while endangering your life and the lives of others. It doesn’t matter whether you’re driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Either way, you’re using a substance that’s impairing your ability to drive.

The deaths and damages associated with drunk driving crashes reach $44 billion every year.

The penalties for a DUI include:

  • Community service (for a first-time offense)
  • A DUI classified as a felony (if someone is injured or dies)
  • A mandatory jail sentence (for a second offense)
  • Fees and fines
  • Losing your license and driving privileges
  • An increased insurance rate
  • Disqualification from certain jobs

In some cases, you’ll need to complete a drug and alcohol education program. You might also have to attend AA meetings.

However, your penalties can become more severe if you:

  • Drove with a BAC higher than the legal limit
  • Drove under the legal drinking age
  • Had prior DUI convictions
  • Drove recklessly
  • Refused to take a breathalyzer test
  • Drove with a younger passenger
  • Drove with a suspended license

What if it’s your first-time offense? In that case, you might not receive jail time. IF you were driving safely, it could also reduce your penalties. An experienced lawyer can help argue down your penalties as well.

What’s Worse?

Which is worse: DUI or DWI?

It depends on whether or not your state sees a difference between DUI and DWI charges. The circumstances while you’re driving can impact your case, too. For example, the consequences are far worse if someone dies as a result of your reckless driving.

Regardless, it’s essential to have an experienced lawyer argue your case. Otherwise, you could lose more than your license.

Drive Safely: Learning the Difference Between DUI and DWI

What exactly is the difference between DUI and DWI charges? It really depends on where you’re driving when you’re charged. In many states, the two terms are used interchangeably.

Searching for more helpful guides? Explore the Lifestyle section of the blog today.

Written by Marcus Richards

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