What Is a DUI or DWI?

A DUI is a legal term for a specific offense, driving under the influence. The abbreviation DWI typically means driving while intoxicated. A DUI or DWI may be related not only to alcohol, but also to drugs, both legal and illegal. Some non-prescription drugs may fall in this category. Some states have expanded their DUI and DWI legislation to include driving while otherwise impaired, such as when sleep deprived. These laws may also apply to boating, piloting aircraft and even bicycling.

Legal statutes today in most areas provide for two separate offenses. The first is the traditional offense driving while intoxicated. In this case, the police officer’s observations of drunkenness, as well as any field tests for drunkenness, are used as evidence, along with a presumption that blood alcohol levels exceeded legal limits.

For the second, illegal per se, there is no need for the individual to have drunk appearance, but simply to have test results in excess of legal limits for blood alcohol. If testing was not done, only the first charge is an option; however, in many cases, both charges. Alcohol content in the blood or BAC is typically measured as a simple percentage.

Being Stopped for a DUI

If you are stopped for a DUI or DWI, you should, as with any traffic stop, to cooperate fully with the police officer, providing all requested information. In most cases, if the officer suspects you have been drinking and are impaired, you will be asked to perform a variety of field tests to determine sobriety. Field sobriety tests to determine whether you are guilty of a DUI or DWI typically include walking heel-toe in a straight line, standing on one leg for a short period, or other tests which should be easily passed while sober.

The official also observes for slurred speech or other signs of drunkenness. If you are sober, you should not worry. Typically, a test of blood alcohol is also performed, and if clear, you will not be charged with a DUI or DWI under DWI laws. The most common test for blood alcohol used to determine BAC under DUI laws is a simple Breathalyzer test. While you may be tempted to refuse field sobriety tests if you have been drinking, DUI laws and DWI laws are set up to prevent this from happening. Nearly every state has administrative licensing suspension as a part of their DWI and DUI laws. If you refuse testing, they can take and suspend your driver’s license immediately. This will not help your defense.

What you must do if accused of a DUI

If you have been arrested for a DUI or DWI, by DWI laws in most states, the officer will immediately confiscate your license. In most states, a DUI or DWI is a misdemeanor offense, punished by fines and license suspensions. If you have caused an accident, injury or fatality while driving under the influence, DWI and DUI laws allow for much more severe consequences. More severe punishments may also be imposed under DUI law for repeat offenders. If you have been charged with a DUI or DWI, the officer will confiscate your license, and you will be taken to the police station for processing, including a search, fingerprinting, and mug shots.

Your license will be immediately suspended; however, in some states may be able to schedule an administrative hearing to acquire a temporary license until your trial. While the consequences of a DUI or DWI are quite severe, if you were in the wrong you may simply choose to plead guilty and accept your punishment. In some states, you may be offered the option of taking classes to reduce the penalties associated with your DUI or DWI. If you feel the charge was unfair or inaccurate, you may need a lawyer specializing in DUI law and DWI law.