You see drunk driving officially called driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while impaired (DWI) all the time. But do they mean the same thing? And what types of vehicles do they pertain to? And can you get busted even if you’re only a little buzzed? What about if you’re not under the influence of alcohol but you are under the influence of some other type of drug?
How rampant is drunk driving?
Car accidents are the leading cause of death for people in the United States who are under the age of 24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and about 40% of those fatalities involve alcohol.
The legal drinking age is 21 years old in all 50 states and the legal limit for a criminal charge of DUI or DWI is a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08%. BAC is a metric measurement that pertains to the amount of alcohol present in a 100 milliliter (ml) volume of blood, meaning if you have 0.08% alcohol content per 100 ml of blood, you are considered legally drunk, regardless of how you might feel.
The number of laws pertaining to drunk driving have been increasing over the years to combat the rising number of injuries and fatalities related to motor vehicle accidents involving alcohol-impaired drivers.
What’s the difference between DUI and DWI?
In a lot of states, the only difference between DUI and DWI is semantics. They are virtually the same and both pertain to criminal charges for the unlawful operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or combination of both. However, in some states a DWI charge is specific to alcohol and a DUI charge is specific to being under the influence of other drugs or a combination of alcohol and other drugs.
Not all DUI/DWI charges are equal, either. Each state has its own specific charges for driving while alcohol-impaired but the category of charge will depend on the age of the driver, the type of vehicle being driven, the degree of intoxication and whether or not any property damage, injuries or fatalities occurred prior to you being busted.
Being under that magic number of 0.08% BAC doesn’t mean you can’t be charged, either. In some jurisdictions you can be charged with DUI/DWI even if you are below the 0.08% BAC threshold. If you are a commercial driver, you can be convicted of DUI/DWI with a BAC of only 0.04%. If you are a driver under 21, any amount of alcohol can be grounds for a DUI/DWI arrest.
Common criminal drunk driving charges in the U.S.A.:
- DUI – Driving Under the Influence (alcohol or drugs)
- DUII – Driving Under Intense Influence
- DWI – Driving While Intoxicated
- DWUI – Driving While Under the Influence
- OUI – Operating Under the Influence
- OWI – Operating While Intoxicated and Operating While Impaired
- OVI – Operating a Vehicle Impaired
- OMVI – Operating a Motor Vehicle While Intoxicated
What type of vehicles can I be arrested for driving drunk?
The short answer is; basically any type of vehicle.
Depending on the jurisdiction, you can be arrested for the operation of the following if you are legally impaired:
- Boats and other watercraft
- Construction and farm equipment (e.g., back hoes and combines)
- Horses and horse-drawn vehicles (even if the horse is sober)
How will a DUI/DWI conviction affect me?
The short-term ramifications include temporary driver’s license suspension, fees and fines, court-mandated community service, participation in drunk driving education programs, and potential jail time.
However, even after you pay the fines and fulfill your legal obligations, your DUI conviction can haunt your life for years.
Long-term consequences of a DUI conviction include:
- A costly legal process
- Job loss and damage to future career prospects
- Higher auto insurance rates
- Damage to personal and professional reputation
- Criminal conviction on your records for years
- Possible revocation of driver’s license
The only way to completely avoid the risk of a DUI/DWI conviction is to avoid drinking and driving. It’s not worth the risk to you or anyone else to do it.