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DUI vs DWI: What’s the Difference?

DUI vs DWI: What’s the Difference?

Chances are, you’ve probably heard of the acronym DUI, or ‘driving under the influence.’

But what about a DWI, ‘driving while intoxicated’ or in some states ‘driving while impaired’? Is there a difference? And is there a difference in Baton Rouge, Louisiana?

The DUI vs DWI debate is ongoing and varies depending on the state.

For Louisiana, the acronyms are interchangeable because the state is a Zero Tolerance Policy. This means that anyone under the age of 21 found to have alcohol in their system will receive a DUI/DWI, even if that amount is lower than 0.08%.

The DUI/DWI charge also encompasses other controlled or non-controlled substances, and even over-the-counter drugs taken in incorrect dosages or without a prescription.

To protect and inform yourself, here is everything you need to know about getting a DUI or DWI in Louisiana, and resources if you find yourself in a predicament.


We know that DUI means ‘driving under the influence. Now let’s define what ‘driving while intoxicated’ really means.

In Louisiana, the DUI/DWI is pretty standard. If your driving is at all altered or affected by an impairing substance, you’re driving while intoxicated.

This applies to alcohol, of course, but is not limited to it.

In Louisiana, marijuana is illegal. Marijuana can have an effect on driving by slowing your reaction time and impairing your judgment—both are crucial aspects of driving a motor vehicle. Driving under the influence of marijuana or other controlled or non-controlled substances will give you a DWI.

You are Driving While Intoxicated in Louisiana if you meet one of the following criteria:

  1. Under the influence of alcohol.
  2. Having a BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) of 0.08% or higher (or over 0% if under 21).
  3. Under the influence of controlled drugs.
  4. Under the influence of a mix of controlled and non-controlled drugs.

Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol

This is most often referred to as a DUI, but in the state of Louisiana, it is also called a DWI.

A BAC level of anything over the legal limit will give you a DWI charge. For an individual under the age of 21, the same charge will result if your BAC is anything above 0% per the Zero Tolerance Policy.

If you consent to, take, and fail a breathalyzer test by blowing above 0.08% (or anything over 0% for under 21-year-olds), you will receive a DWI. In some cases, you may be able to refuse the breathalyzer, but that can create potential refusal consequences if you aren’t aware of your rights.

Driving Under the Influence of Controlled Substances

Controlled substances include marijuana (which is illegal in Louisiana), as well as methamphetamines, cocaine, heroin, prescription drugs, and even as far as cough syrup taken in incorrect dosages.

These DWI charges are harder to prove because, without a blood test, there is no way to calculate the THC or other substance levels in your system. It’s important to note that without probable cause, you can’t be charged.

Driving Under the Influence of Non-Controlled Substances

Non-controlled substances include prescription medications, for example, morphine, codeine, Percocet, etc.

You can receive a DWI from driving with any of these substances in your blood without a prescription, or if you have a mix of these substances in your system at the time of arrest.

Consequences of a DWI

There are many possible consequences for driving while intoxicated, and with repeat offenses, these consequences increase. It is best to avoid driving under the influence altogether, but if you find yourself in a predicament, here’s what you need to know.

First Offense

Your first offense is considered a misdemeanor. You can be sentenced to jail time (up to six months) OR a fine up to $1000. You will also have probation, community service, and mandatory DWI education.

Second Offense

Your second offense is also considered a misdemeanor. Because you are a repeat offender, your fines, re-education and community service hours will be increased. You will also spend at least 48 hours in jail, which is likely to happen immediately upon arrest.

Third Offense

Your third offense is considered a felony. These consequences are far more serious. When you have a third offense, you will serve anywhere from 1-5 years in state prison. You’ll pay higher fines of $2000+ as well as added community service hours. You will also be subject to substance addiction evaluations and be required to enroll in inpatient drug/alcohol treatment center for one month.

Your vehicle may also be seized and driving/license privileges may also be revoked for any and all of your offenses, even your first.

What to Do If You Get a DUI or DWI

If you get a DUI vs DWI it’s important to know the difference and your next steps.

First, you’ll want to hire a good attorney in Louisiana. This attorney will know your rights as well as the state laws thoroughly. Your attorney will help you to make informed decisions and advocate on your behalf in the courtroom and throughout the entire process.

It’s important to find an attorney that knows the right steps to take and leaves you feeling confident, informed, and prepared. They will represent you from this moment forward.

If you are located in the Baton Rouge area and are looking for an attorney, contact Carl Barkemeyer, Criminal Defense Attorney. You can reach him directly by filling out your information on this page.

Carl Barkemeyer wrote the published book on DWI: Practical Information for the Accused and Attorneys in Louisiana. He regularly gives lectures and advice to other attorneys regarding how to successfully defend clients for DWI.

Louisiana DWI & Criminal Lawyers

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Louisiana criminal lawyers and DWI attorneys at the Barkemeyer Law Firm providing legal defense services for clients in Baton Rouge, Ascension, Livingston, Tangipahoa, Port Allen, Alexandria, New Orleans, Lafayette, Metairie, Kenner, Gretna, Hahnville, Chalmette, Slidell, St. Tammany, St. Charles, St. John, St. Bernard, Mandeville, Covington, Shreveport, Bossier, Jefferson, and all of Louisiana.

DISCLAIMER: The information on this website is not formal legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship.

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