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Difference Between DUI and DWI

The terms DUI and DWI are popularly used interchangeably to refer to the criminal offense of driving a vehicle under the influence of or while intoxicated by alcohol. However, in Texas, these two terms have different legal meanings and refer to different criminal statutes. As a driver in Texas, you should understand the differences between DUI and DWI and whether and how each offense may apply to you.

What Is DUI?

The term “DUI” means “driving under the influence.” Under Texas law, the only official reference to DUI involves a charge against a driver under the age of 21. Texas has a zero-tolerance policy for under-21 drivers operating vehicles with alcohol in their system. If a driver under the age of 21 is pulled over and is found to have any amount of alcohol in their system, they may be charged with “driving under the influence of alcohol,” or “DUI” or “DUIA.”

An under-21 driver may be charged with DUI even if their ability to safely operate a vehicle has not been impaired by the presence of alcohol in their system. State law criminalizes the fact that an under-21 driver has gotten behind the wheel of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.

What Is DWI?

“DWI” is short for “driving while intoxicated.” In Texas, the term DWI refers to the criminal offense of adults driving while they have a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher. However, DWI may still be charged to a driver with a lower BAC if other evidence proves that their intoxication has rendered them unable to safely operate a vehicle. In addition, drivers under the age of 21 may also be charged with DWI if they are arrested with a BAC of 0.08 or higher, in addition to being charged with the zero-tolerance offense of DUI.

Are the Penalties Different for DUI and DWI?

In Texas, DUIs and DWIs are graded differently for sentencing purposes. A DUI is graded as a Class C misdemeanor, while a DWI is normally graded as a Class B misdemeanor. However, a DWI may be upgraded to a Class A misdemeanor charge if a driver is arrested with a BAC of 0.15 percent or higher. In addition, a driver may be charged with felony DWI if the driver causes an accident that results in bodily injury or death to another person.

Penalties for a Class C misdemeanor include a fine of up to $500, plus community service, mandatory alcohol safety courses, and a license suspension of up to 60 days.

Penalties for Class B misdemeanors may include up to 180 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,000. Class A misdemeanors may be punished by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $4,000.

Felony DWI convictions may have penalties that include two to 20 years in prison and fines of $10,000 or more.

How Can an Attorney Help Me after I’ve Been Arrested for DUI or DWI?

After you have been arrested for DUI or DWI, you should not assume that you are going to be convicted no matter what. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may have potential factual and legal defenses to your charge. Even if you are convicted, you might also avoid the harshest penalties prescribed under the law. A DUI/DWI defense lawyer can help you following your arrest by:

  • Conducting an independent investigation of the circumstances surrounding your arrest to recover evidence that may be useful to your defense.
  • Ensuring that you understand your legal rights and options and what you can expect in your case, including the potential penalties that you may be facing for a conviction.
  • Challenging the state’s case against you where possible, such as challenging the reliability of field sobriety test or breath/blood test results or arguing that you were unlawfully pulled over by police without reasonable suspicion or probable cause.
  • Where appropriate, negotiating with the prosecution for a plea deal that can allow you to avoid the maximum punishments for conviction under the law.
  • Advocating on your behalf at trial if you choose to defend yourself against your charges.

Contact Us Today

If you have been arrested for and charged with DUI or DWI in Texas, don’t leave your freedom and reputation to chance in the criminal justice system. Call the Collin County Criminal Defense lawyers of Rosenthal Kalabus & Therrian at (972) 369-0577 or fill out our contact form for a free, confidential consultation to speak with a DWI defense attorney about your legal rights and options. We can discuss how our firm can help you to seek a favorable outcome to your charges.