What is the difference between DUI and DWI?

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There are key differences between a DUI and DWI and penalties for each depend on the state in which it appears on your record. A DWI refers to driving while intoxicated, while a DUI means driving under the influence (DUI), and these can mean very different things depending on where each occurs. However, whether a driver receives a DUI or a DWI charge, the damage to their driving record is likely to be similar.

Every two hours, three people are killed in an alcohol-related highway accident. Even more sobering: among major crimes, DUIs and DWIs had one of the highest arrest rates in 2010 — the most recent year for which data is available — with more than 1.4 million arrests.

Defining DUI and DWI

DUIs and DWIs have slightly different meanings: A DUI refers to driving under the influence, while a DWI means driving while intoxicated or impaired. With a DUI, the charge could mean that the driver was driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It’s important to note that the drugs do not need to be illicit. Prescription drugs and over-the-counter drugs can also lead to a DUI charge if the person becomes impaired as a result of taking them.

Whether you’re charged with a DUI or a DWI, the charge only arises in a situation where a law enforcement officer proves you were too impaired to drive.

While the differences in terminology may seem like a game of semantics, the real differences between these two charges are ultimately determined by the state in which the incident occurred and blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limits set. DUI and DWI cases vary from state to state. In fact, some states use different terminology entirely to charge an individual who has operated a motor vehicle while intoxicated.

OUI vs. OWI

In some states, drivers may be charged with either an OUI or OWI. An OUI means operating under the influence of intoxicating liquor, while an OWI means operating while intoxicated. Currently, there are five states that use such terminology when charging drivers with related offenses:

  • Indiana: OWI
  • Iowa: OWI
  • Maine: OUI
  • Massachusetts: OUI
  • Michigan: OWI

State-by-state differences

The ramifications for receiving a DUI or DWI vary from state to state. In fact, the legal limit for intoxication can be significantly different depending on the state in which you live. For example, while most states will issue a DUI charge if the driver has a blood-alcohol content (BAC) level higher than 0.08%, Utah will issue a DUI if the driver’s BAC is higher than 0.05%. Additionally, in many states, penalties can increase if your BAC is at least 0.15%.

In many cases, a DUI or DWI offense will result in license suspension and mandatory alcohol education and treatment. License suspension terms vary depending on the state in which you live and whether or not it’s your first, second or third offense. For example, if you receive a DUI in Alaska and it’s your first offense, you could receive up to a 90-day license suspension, while in Connecticut, the same charge could result in a one-year license suspension. Depending on where you live, you may even have your vehicle confiscated or an ignition interlock device installed.

State Type First offense Second offense Subsequent offenses
Alabama DUI Up to $2,100 in fines, up to a year in jail, and/or 90-day license suspension Up to $5,100 in fines, up to a year in jail, and 45-day minimum license suspension
Alaska DUI $1,500 minimum fine, 72 hours in jail, and minimum 90-day license suspension 20 day imprisonment, minimum $3,000 fine, and license suspension for minimum of one year
(within 15 years of the first DUI)
60 day imprisonment, minimum $4,000 fine, and license suspension for minimum of three years
(within 15 years of the second DUI)
Arizona DUI Minimum $250 fine and up to 10 days in jail $500 base fine and up to 90 days in jail $750 base fine and 4 month minimum incarceration
Arkansas DUI, DWI Up to $1,000 in fines, up to a year in jail, 6-month license suspension, and alcohol treatment Up to $3,000 in fines, up to a year in jail, 2-year license suspension, and alcohol treatment Maximum penalty considered a felony
California DUI Up to $1,000 in fines, up to 6 months in jail, 6 month license suspension, and DUI school Up to $1,000 in fines, up to a year in jail, one year license suspension, and DUI school or SB 38 Up to $1,000 in fines, up to a year in jail, 2 years license suspension, and traffic school
Colorado DUI Up to $1,000 in fines, up to one year in jail, 9 month license suspension, community service, and DMV points Up to $1,500 in fines, up to one year in jail, one year license suspension, community service, and DMV points Up to $1,500 in fines, up to one year in jail, 2 year license suspension, community service, and DMV points
Connecticut DUI Up to $1,000 in fines; up to one year in prison Up to $1,000 in fines; up to 2 years in prison Up to $1,000 in fines; up to 3 years in prison
Delaware DUI $1,500 minimum fine, up to one year in jail, and up to 2 year license suspension $2,500 minimum fine, minimum 18 months in jail, and up to 30 months license suspension $2,500 minimum fine, minimum 18 months in jail, and up to 30 months license suspension
District of Columbia DUI, DWI Up to $1,000 in fines, up to 180 days in jail, and up to 6 months license suspension Up to $5,000 in fines, up to 180 days in jail, and up to one year license suspension Up to $10,000 in fines, up to one year in jail, and up to 2 years license suspension
Florida DUI Up to $1,000 in fines, up to 6 months in jail, and up to 3 years license suspension Up to $2,000 in fines, up to 9 months in jail, and up to 5 years license suspension Up to $5,000 in fines, up to one year in jail, and up to 10 years license suspension
Georgia DUI Minimum $300 in fines, up to 10 days in jail, possible license suspension, community service Minimum $1,000 in fines, up to 1 year in jail, one year license suspension, community service Minimum $5,000 in fines, up to 1 year in jail, 5 years license suspension, community service
Hawaii DUI, DWI Minimum $1,000 in fines, up to 5 days in jail, one-year license suspension, community service, rehab Minimum $3,000 in fines, up to 30 days in jail, 3 years license suspension, community service, rehab Minimum $5,000 in fines, minimum 10 days in jail, up to 5 year license suspension, community service, rehab
Idaho DUI Minimum $1,000 in fines, up to one year in jail, three month license suspension Minimum $2,000 in fines, up to five years in jail, one year license suspension Up to $5,000 in fines, up to 10 years in jail, up to five years license suspension
Illinois DUI Maximum $2,500 in fines, maximum one year in jail, one-year license suspension, community service Maximum $2,500 in fines, maximum one year in jail, 5 years license suspension, community service Maximum $25,000 in fines, maximum 7 years in jail, 10 years license suspension, community service
Indiana DUI Up to $5,000 in fines, up to one year in jail, and up to 180 days license suspension Up to $10,000 in fines, up to 3 years in jail, and up to 2 years license suspension Up to $10,000 in fines, up to 3 years in jail, and up to 10 years license suspension
Iowa DUI, DWI, OWI Up to $1,250 in fines, up to one year in jail, and up to one year license suspension Up to $6,250 in fines, up to 2 years in jail, and up to 2 years license suspension Up to $9,375 in fines, up to 5 years in jail, and up to 6 years license suspension
Kansas DUI Up to $1,000 in fines, up to 2 days in jail, 90 day license suspension, and alcohol treatment Up to $1,500 in fines, up to one year in jail, one year license suspension, and alcohol treatment Up to $2,500 in fines, up to one year in jail, one year license suspension, and alcohol treatment
Kentucky DUI, DWI Up to $500 in fines, up to 30 days in jail, 120 day license suspension, community service, rehab Up to $500 in fines, up to 6 months in jail, 18 month license suspension, community service, rehab Up to $1,000 in fines, up to one year in jail, 36 month license suspension, community service, rehab
Louisiana DUI, DWI Up to $1,000 in fines, up to 6 months in jail, community service, rehab Up to $1,000 in fines, up to 6 months in jail, community service, rehab Up to $2,000 in fines, up to 5 years in jail, community service, rehab
Maine DUI, DWI Up to $500 in fines and up to 150 days license suspension Up to $900 in fines, 12 days in jail, and up to 3 year license suspension Up to $1,400 in fines, up to 40 days in jail, and up to 6 years license suspension
Maryland DUI, DWI Up to $1,000 in fines, up to one year in jail, and up to 6 month license suspension Up to $2,000 in fines, up to 2 years in jail, and up to one year license suspension Up to $5,000 in fines, up to 5 years in jail, and up to one year license suspension
Massachusetts DUI Up to $5,000 in fines, up to 2.5 years in jail, and up to 90 day license suspension Up to $10,000 in fines, up to 2.5 years in jail, and up to 2 year license suspension Up to $15,000 in fines, up to 2.5 years in jail, and up to 8 years license suspension
Michigan OWI, OWVI Up to $500 in fines, up to 93 days in jail, community service Up to $1,000 in fines, up to one year in jail, community service Up to $5,000 in fines, up to 5 years in jail, community service
Minnesota DUI Up to $3,000 in fines, up to one year in jail Up to $3,000 in fines, up to one year in jail Up to $14,000 in fines, up to 7 years in jail for felony
Mississippi DUI, DWI Up to $1,000 in fines, up to 48 hours in jail, up to one year license suspension, and driver education Up to $1,500 in fines, up to 1 year in jail, and up to 2 year license suspension, community service, rehab Up to $5,000 in fines, up to 5 years in jail, and up to 5 year license suspension, community service
Missouri DUI, DWI Up to $1,000 in fines, up to 6 months in jail, up to 30 day license suspension Up to $2,000 in fines, up to one year in jail, up to 5 years license suspension Up to $10,000 in fines, up to 4 years in jail, up to 10 year license suspension
Montana DUI Up to $1,000 in fines, up to 6 months in jail, up to 6 month license suspension, rehab, driver education Up to $1,000 in fines, up to one year in jail, up to one year license suspension, rehab, driver education Up to $5,000 in fines, up to one year in jail, up to one year license suspension, rehab, driver education
Nebraska DUI, DWI Up to $500 in fines, up to 60 days in jail, up to 6 months license suspension Up to $500 in fines, up to 180 days in jail, up to 18 month license suspension Up to $1,000 in fines, up to one year in jail, up to 15 year license suspension
Nevada DUI, DWI Up to $400 in fines, up to 180 days in jail, minimum 185 day license suspension Up to $750 in fines, up to 180 days in jail, one year license suspension Up to $2,000 in fines, up to 6 years in jail, 3 years license suspension
New Hampshire DUI, DWI Up to $1.200 in fines, minimum 2 year license suspension Up to $2,000 in fines, up to one year in jail, minimum 3 year license suspension Up to $2,000 in fines, up to one year in jail, lifetime license suspension
New Jersey DUI, DWI Up to $500 in fines, up to 30 days in jail, minimum 3 month license suspension, driver education, community service Up to $1,000 in fines, up to 90 days in jail, minimum 2 year license suspension, driver education, community service Up to $1,000 in fines, up to 180 days in jail, minimum 10 year license suspension, driver education, community service
New Mexico DUI, DWI Up to $500 in fines, up to 90 days in jail, community service Up to $1,000 in fines, up to 364 days in jail, community service Up to $1,000 in fines, up to 364 days in jail, community service
New York DUI Up to $2,500 in fines, up to one year in jail, minimum one year license suspension Up to $5,000 in fines, up to 4 years in jail, minimum 18 month license suspension Up to $10,000 in fines, up to 7 years in jail, minimum 19 month license suspension
North Carolina DUI, DWI Level-based Level-based Level-based
North Dakota Up to $750 in fines, up to 2 days in jail, minimum 3 month license suspension, community service, rehab Up to $1,500 in fines, up to 10 days in jail, minimum one year license suspension, community service, rehab Up to $2,000 in fines, up to 120 days in jail, minimum one year license suspension, community service, rehab
Ohio DUI, DWI Up to $1,075 in fines, up to 6 months in jail, up to 3 years license suspension Up to $1,625 in fines, up to 6 months in jail, up to 7 years license suspension Up to $2,750 in fines, up to one year in jail, up to 12 years license suspension
Oklahoma DUI, DWI Up to $1,000 in fines, up to one year in jail, up to 180 days license suspension Up to $2,500 in fines, up to 5 years in jail, up to one year license suspension Up to $5,000 in fines, up to 10 years in jail, up to 3 years license suspension
Oregon Up to $6,250 in fines, up to one year in jail, up to one year license suspension Up to $10.000 in fines, up to one year in jail, up to 3 years license suspension Up to $125,000 in fines, up to 5 years in jail, up to permanent license suspension
Pennsylvania DUI Up to $5,000 in fines, up to 6 months in jail, up to one year license suspension Up to $10,000 in fines, up to 5 years in jail, up to 18 months license suspension Up to $10,000 in fines, up to 5 years in jail, up to 18 months license suspension
Rhode Island DUI Over $1,200 in fines, up to one year in jail, up to one year license suspension, community service, rehab Over $1,750 in fines, up to one year in jail, up to 2 years license suspension, community service, rehab Over $5,000 in fines, up to 5 years in jail, up to 3 year license suspension, community service, rehab
South Carolina DUI, DUAC Up to $1,000 in fines, up to 90 days in jail, 6 month license suspension Up to $6,500 in fines, up to 3 years in jail, up to one year license suspension Up to $10,000 in fines, up to 5 years in jail, up to 4 year license suspension
South Dakota DUI, DWI Up to $2,000 in fines, up to one year in jail, up to one year license suspension Up to $2,000 in fines, up to one year in jail, minimum one year license suspension Up to $4,000 in fines, up to 2 years in jail, minimum one year license suspension
Tennessee DUI Up to $1,500 in fines, up to 7 days in jail, up to one year license suspension Up to $3,500 in fines, up to nearly one year in jail, up to 2 years license suspension Up to $10,000 in fines, up to nearly one year in jail, up to 10 year license suspension
Texas DUI, DWI Up to $4,000 in fines, up to 6 months in jail, up to one year license suspension Up to $4,000 in fines, up to one year in jail, up to 2 years license suspension Up to $10,000 in fines, up to 10 years in jail, up to 2 years license suspension
Utah DUI, DWI Up to $1,310 in fines, up to 180 days in jail, up to 120 day license suspension Up to $1,560 in fines, up to 10 days in jail, up to 2 year license suspension Up to $2,580 in fines, up to 5 years in jail, up to 2 years license suspension
Vermont DUI, DWI Up to $750 in fines, up to 2 years in jail Up to $1,500 in fines, up to 2 years in jail Up to $2,500 in fines, up to 5 years in jail
Virginia DUI, DWI Up to $2,500 in fines, up to one year in jail, one year license suspension Up to $2,500 in fines up to one year in jail, 3 year license suspension Up to $2,500 in fines, up to 180 days in jail, indefinite license suspension
Washington DUI Up to $5,000 in fines, up to one year in jail, up to 2 year license suspension, rehab Up to $5,000 in fines, up to one year in jail, up to 3 year license suspension, rehab Up to $5,000 in fines, up to one year in jail, up to 4 year license suspension, rehab
West Virginia DUI Up to $1,000 in fines, up to 6 months in jail, up to 6 months license suspension Up to $3,000 in fines, up to one year in jail, 10 year license suspension Up to $5,000 in fines, up to 5 years in jail, permanent license suspension
Wisconsin OWI Up to $300 in fines Up to $1,100 in fines, up to 6 months in jail Up to $2,000 in fines, up to one year in jail
Wyoming DUI, DWI Up to $750 in fines, up to 6 months in jail, 90 day license suspension Up to $750 in fines, up to 6 months in jail, one year license suspension Up to $3,000 in fines, up to 6 months in jail, 3 year license suspension

Will DUIs and DWIs impact my insurance rates?

After you receive a DUI or DWI, your insurance rates will inevitably increase. and in some cases, you may be dropped from your policy entirely. How much your insurance premium increases largely depends on your insurance carrier. However, in most cases, your insurance rates will double or triple in price compared to what they were before.

Depending on your insurance carrier and/or your state’s requirements, you may be required to obtain an SR-22 after getting a DUI or DWI. An SR-22 is a certificate of financial responsibility that illustrates that you meet your state’s current car insurance requirements and will continue to do so for a set period of time (typically three years). These are usually required when drivers are seeking to reinstate their suspended license after being charged with a DUI or DWI.

Frequently asked questions

Will I go to jail if I receive a DUI or DWI?

It depends on the state in which you live. Pennsylvania drivers convicted of a DUI or DWI may not receive any jail time, while just two states over in Vermont, convicted drivers can spend up to two years in jail. If you’ve recently been charged with a DUI or DWI, refer to your state’s laws to understand what penalties you may incur.

How long do DUIs and DWIs stay on your driving record?

Again, this depends on the state in which the offense occurred. In most cases, a DUI or DWI will remain on your driving record for three to five years. However, in stricter states — such as California — the offense may stay on your record for 10 years.

What’s the legal limit for blood-alcohol content?

The federal legal limit for blood-alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08%. However, it’s important to note that if you’re under the age of 21, you will face serious penalties if you have a BAC of even 0.01% – no matter what your state’s laws are.

What happens if I fail a breathalyzer test?

If you fail a breathalyzer test, you will likely be charged with a DUI or DWI. But you could also be charged if you pass the breathalyzer test and fail a field sobriety test.

Written by
Carly Severino
Insurance Contributor
Carly Severino has two years of experience in writing for insurance domains such as Bankrate.com, Coverage.com, Reviews.com and TheSimpleDollar.com. She has experience covering a broad range of insurance products, including homeowners, life, auto, and medical insurance. Her expertise has also been called upon in the development of various websites for insurance companies, including Birtwhistle & Livingston, Inc., GovTech Insurance and Tax Title Services.
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