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DUI Vs. DWI: What's The Difference?

DUI Vs. DWI: What's The Difference?

June 13, 2024Nirav Babu
DUI vs. DWI: what's the difference

When facing charges related to impaired driving, understanding the distinction between DUI (Driving Under the Influence) and DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) is important. Both terms involve operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs, but they are not always interchangeable.

Knowing the difference can seriously affect the legal approach and potential penalties one might face. At Innovate Criminal Defense Lawyers, we specialize in clarifying these differences and defending clients accused of both offenses.

In Maryland, the distinction between a DUI and a DWI can often come down to the blood alcohol content (BAC) and the driver's level of impairment.

A DUI typically refers to driving with a BAC at or above the legal limit of 0.08%, whereas a DWI may be charged with a lower BAC if impairment is evident. These nuances are important because they influence the defense strategy and the potential outcomes in court.

Understanding these terms is the first step in preparing an effective defense.

Definition of DUI (Driving Under the Influence)

DUI stands for Driving Under the Influence, primarily of alcohol but also of drugs that impair driving abilities.

In Maryland, you can be charged with a DUI if your blood alcohol content is 0.08% or higher, which meets the federal legal limit. This charge can apply even if you do not show obvious signs of impairment, as the BAC alone is enough to substantiate the charge.

DUI charges are serious and can lead to substantial legal penalties.

Definition of DWI (Driving While Intoxicated)

DWI stands for Driving While Intoxicated. It involves operating a vehicle while impaired by either alcohol or drugs.

In Maryland, a DWI might be charged when a driver's BAC is below 0.08%, but there is still evident impairment that affects their driving skills.

Signs of impairment could include erratic driving or failing a field sobriety test. This charge highlights that even a lower level of intoxication can be legally consequential.

Legal Differences Between DUI and DWI

Legal differences between DUI and DWI
  • BAC levels. A DUI is typically charged when the BAC is 0.08% or above, while a DWI may be charged with a lower BAC if the impairment is noticeable.
  • Severity of penalties. Generally, DUI offenses carry stiffer penalties due to the higher BAC level, including longer jail time and higher fines.
  • License suspension. Both charges likely result in license suspension, but the duration can be longer under a DUI conviction due to the greater perceived risk.
  • Insurance impact. A DUI conviction usually leads to higher increases in car insurance rates compared to a DWI, reflecting the higher risk associated with higher alcohol levels. The insurance company could charge you more if you have a DUI conviction on your insurance record.
  • Criminal record. Both charges will appear on a driving record, but a DUI might carry more weight with future legal or job implications.

Signs of Driving While Impaired

  • Swerving. Frequent unexplained deviations from the lane can indicate loss of vehicle control due to impairment. If the police officer sees this, they may decide to pull you over.
  • Slow response times. Delayed responses to traffic signals or situations are a common sign of a driver's reduced capability.
  • Inconsistent speed. Alternating speeds without clear reason can suggest the driver is not fully aware or in control.
  • Failure to use headlights at night. Forgetting to turn on headlights after dark is a simple yet telling sign of impaired judgment.
  • Ignoring traffic signs. Missing or ignoring stop signs and other traffic signals can indicate impaired attention or decision-making.

The Risks of Driving Under the Influence

The risks of driving under the influence
  • Accidents and injuries. Impaired driving dramatically increases the risk of accidents, which can lead to severe injuries or fatalities.
  • Legal consequences. Being charged with a DUI or DWI can result in heavy fines, jail time, and long-term legal repercussions. The exact penalties you face could depend on the specific circumstances of your case.
  • License revocation. Serious or repeated offenses can lead to long-term suspension or permanent revocation of driving privileges.
  • Insurance penalties. Following a DUI/DWI, you can expect your car insurance rates to skyrocket, reflecting your new status as a high-risk driver.
  • Social stigma. The personal and professional reputation impacts can be profound, affecting relationships and job opportunities.

Maryland Laws on DUI and DWI

In Maryland, the laws governing DUI and DWI are designed to prevent impaired driving and protect road users.

The legal BAC limit for a DUI is 0.08%, but a DWI can be charged with a lower BAC based on observed impairment. These laws reflect the state's commitment to road safety and the severe risks associated with impaired driving.

The specifics of Maryland's DUI and DWI statutes are detailed in Maryland Transportation Code ยง 21-902. This statute explains the conditions under which drivers can be charged with either offense and the criteria law enforcement must follow.

For example, this statute states that individuals under the influence of drugs and alcohol also cannot have a minor in the car. The statute also states that just because someone has a valid prescription to take a medication, that does not mean they can drive while under the influence of that medication.

Penalties for DUI and DWI in Maryland

Penalties for DUI and DWI in Maryland

The penalties for DUI and DWI in Maryland are both strict and intended to deter future offenses.

For a DUI, penalties can include up to one year in jail for a first offense, substantial fines, and a six-month license suspension.

A second conviction could result in two years in jail, a mandatory minimum sentence of five days in jail, and a fine of $2,000.

If you are found guilty of a DWI, you could face up to two months in jail and a fine of up to $500. A second conviction could lead to up to a year in jail.

Factors Affecting DUI and DWI Charges

  • Driver's BAC level. The exact blood alcohol concentration at the time of arrest heavily influences the charge and subsequent penalties.For example, if your BAC level is multiple times the legal limit, you could be charged with a more serious offense or face stiffer penalties.
  • Previous offenses. Drivers with prior DUI or DWI convictions face stricter penalties and less leniency from the court. If you have a prior DUI conviction on your record, you could face a longer jail sentence.
  • Presence of minors. If minors are in the vehicle during the offense, penalties are typically more severe. Maryland protects its most vulnerable population, including children.
  • Resulting damage or injury. Charges can be escalated if the impaired driving results in an accident causing property damage or bodily injury. A DUI that results in a major accident, injury, or death could lead to more severe penalties.
  • Cooperation with law enforcement. How the driver interacts with the law enforcement officer during the arrest can impact the case's resolution. If we cooperate with law enforcement, the prosecutor could reduce your sentence.

Defense Strategies for DUI and DWI Charges

Defense strategies for DUI and DWI charges

Successfully defending against DUI or DWI charges requires a comprehensive strategy tailored to each case's specifics. At Innovate Criminal Defense Lawyers, we focus on several key areas to build our defense.

Challenging the Validity of the Traffic Stop

If the initial traffic stop was not based on reasonable suspicion of impairment or a traffic violation, we might argue that any evidence gathered should be dismissed. The police officer must have a valid reason to pull you over before they accuse you of drunk driving.

Questioning the Accuracy of BAC Testing Methods

We often challenge the accuracy of the breathalyzer test or the blood test procedure used to determine BAC. Errors in testing can lead to wrongful charges. If the machine was not calibrated properly or the test was not administered correctly, we could get your DWI offense dismissed.

Presenting Evidence of Sobriety

Introducing evidence such as witness statements or video footage that shows the client's sobriety at the time of arrest can counter the prosecution's claims. We will explore all the evidence to see if we can show proof that you were sober. This could get your DWI DUI charge dropped.

Negotiating Reduced Charges or Alternative Sentencing

In some cases, negotiating with the prosecution can lead to reduced charges or alternative sentencing options, such as probation or mandatory alcohol education, instead of jail time. We seek to put your case in the best position possible for a favorable outcome.

Does My Case Have To Go To Trial?

Not all DUI or DWI cases go to trial. Many can be resolved through plea bargains or pre-trial negotiations. If we can reach a favorable agreement with the prosecution that meets your goals, it may be unnecessary to go to trial.

Can You Get My Case Dismissed?

Our first objective in any DUI or DWI case is to examine the possibility of dismissal. Suppose there are sufficient grounds to question the legality of a traffic stop, the integrity of the evidence, or the conduct of the arresting officers. In that case, we will vigorously pursue the dismissal of the charges.

What Does a Good Plea Deal Look Like?

A good plea deal in a DUI or DWI case should minimize the negative consequences for the client. This could mean reduced charges, avoiding jail time, or securing conditions that do not excessively disrupt your life, like maintaining your employment. We aim to negotiate terms that protect your interests and future.

Rely on Our Baltimore DUI Lawyer for Your Defense

Rely on Baltimore DUI lawyer for your defense

If you're facing DUI or DWI charges, you need a defense that's both effective and personalized.

Innovate Criminal Defense Lawyers provides this by focusing on your case's unique aspects and circumstances. We understand the anxiety and uncertainty these charges can bring, and we're here to help you through the legal process.

Let us provide you with the strong defense you deserve. Contact us today to schedule a free case evaluation.