DWI is essentially the same thing as DUI, Driving Under the Influence. The state of California uses the term “DUI” exclusively.
If you reach much about drunk driving, you will sometimes see the term DWI used as well as, or instead of DUI. The two terms stand for two slightly different legal concepts:
- DWI: Driving While Intoxicated
- DUI: Driving Under the Influence
Both terms refer to driving while impaired by some kind of substance, either alcohol or drugs. Most states use the two terms to mean the same thing. But some states use them slightly differently. In those states they are two different criminal charges. Under that system, DWI is the more serious charge and it carries heavier penalties. This is because it takes a higher burden of proof to show that a driver was definitely impaired (“Driving While Intoxicated”) than it does to simply show they had alcohol in their system (“Driving Under the Influence”). But most states have moved away from this system.
In California, we only officially use the term “DUI.” If you’re arrested for DUI, you can be convicted either because the court proves you had a high blood alcohol level, or because the court shows evidence that you were impaired. Either one is enough to convict you, and the penalties are the same either way.
However, you will still see some law offices and resources refer to DWI because so many people are familiar with it.
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