You have probably heard DUI and DWI being used interchangeably. That is actually not accurate, however. There is a small difference between them.
DWI means driving while intoxicated, while DUI means driving under the influence. California only uses the term “DUI” in its laws and courts, but you have probably heard other people talk about DWI.
What Is the Difference?
Most of the time, whether a state uses the term DUI or DWI, it means the same thing. However, sometimes the terms are slightly different. In fact, some states use both. In those states, DWI is almost always a more serious crime that can include drugs as well as alcohol.
However, in states that do not have both, like California, DUI includes alcohol, drugs, or anything that you could put in your body that impairs your ability to drive.
What Is a DUI in California?
Driving under the influence means that you were driving a motor vehicle while impaired by an intoxicant, such as alcohol or other drugs. While any amount of drugs or alcohol is technically enough for a DUI if your driving was impaired, most of the time, a DUI is prosecuted based on the amount of alcohol in your system.
The amount of alcohol that you are allowed to have in your system is based on your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) which is the percentage of your bloodstream that is made up of alcohol. The legal limit, if you are over the age of 21 and driving without restrictions, is 0.08%, or 8 parts per 1,000.
How Much Alcohol Can I Drink and Still Be Able to Drive?
A good rule of thumb is, if you have to ask, you should not drive. However, it can be helpful to know how many drinks a typical person will need to drink to be legally intoxicated. For a man of average size, a drink (1 beer, 1 shot of liquor, or 1 glass of wine) raises your BAC by about 0.02%, meaning that 4 drinks are typically enough to make that person legally intoxicated.
For a woman of average size, one drink raises your BAC by about 0.04%, meaning that two drinks are typically enough to make that person intoxicated. However, you should be aware that you do not have to be over the legal limit to be convicted of a DUI. The legal limit simply makes it easier for you to be prosecuted.
A good rule of thumb is to never drive if you feel different at all. If you are already a heavy drinker, you still should not drive after more than 1-2 drinks.
What if I Am Convicted of DUI?
The punishment for a DUI mostly includes how many DUIs you have had before. If you have never had a DUI, you will most likely be subject to a fine and the suspension of your driver’s license. After that, the penalties for DUI increase per each DUI that you get. After 4 DUIs, you can be sentenced to felony jail time.
There are a lot of other penalties for DUI in California. There are also many legal penalties that are not necessarily as common, such as a requirement that you install an ignition interlock device on your car, which will not let you crank your car until you blow into a breathalyzer.
Additionally, there are other “unofficial” penalties that you will likely face. For example, your insurance premiums will be much higher after a DUI and a conviction could make it harder to secure a job.
Sometimes, for other reasons, the penalties for your DUI might be increased. Typically first-time DUI offenders will not receive extremely harsh punishments. However, in some situations, you might be given a more severe penalty.
The situations that might give rise to sentence enhancements could be you causing an accident, your DUI resulting in death, your BAC being far higher than the legal limit, or if you were driving around with a minor under the age of 14 in your car.
The most serious enhancement, for DUI resulting in death, is a major felony offense that can land you up to a decade in prison. These are extremely serious charges, and you will need the assistance of a Los Angeles DUI attorney.
What if I Am Under Age?
The legal drinking age in California is 21 years old. If you are younger than 21, the amount of alcohol that can be in your system goes from 0.08% to none at all. This is because California law expressly prohibits any person under the age of 21 from driving with any alcohol in their system.
California law is not kind to underage drivers who drink. In fact, the penalties for DUI while underage are much stricter than for those for a normal DUI.
If you get a DUI while under the age of 21, you will receive the regular sentences that are laid out above. However, you will, in addition, receive a one-year suspension of your driver’s license. If you had alcohol with you, the penalties are even worse, as the possession of alcohol can result in a $1,000 fine and a separate driver’s license suspension of one year, for a total of two years.
Why Should I Hire a Lawyer?
You do not need to fight against the State of California all alone. If you are facing charges for a DUI, a skilled Los Angeles DUI lawyer can be the difference for you between freedom and imprisonment. Your lawyer can help you speak to the police, represent you in court, challenge evidence, and present evidence of your innocence.
The State’s prosecutors have plenty of experience defeating people who try to represent themselves in various criminal cases. It is not a good idea to try to defeat the charges against you alone. You should contact a skilled Los Angeles DUI lawyer today for a free consultation and case review.