DWI vs. DUI
DWI and DUI Meanings
The difference between DUI and DWI is that DUI stands for driving a vehicle while under the influence of drugs and DWI stands for driving a vehicle while intoxicated from alcohol. However, in Louisiana, DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) and DUI (Driving Under the Influence) actually mean the same crime in Louisiana under the statute of La. R.S. 14:98. There is no difference between DWI and DUI when it comes to penalties. Some states the offense is a DUI, and others call it a DWI. In Louisiana, the crime is Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated. The statute provides that it is unlawful to operate a vehicle while under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or a combination of both. Some refer to the law as the OWI statute. See the below relevant portion of the DWI/DUI statute in Louisiana.
Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated – La. R.S. 14:98
The crime of operating a vehicle while intoxicated is the operating of any motor vehicle when:
- The operator is under the influence of alcohol; or
- The operator’s blood alcohol concentration is 0.08 percent or more; or
- The operator is under the influence of any CDS drugs; or
- The operator is under the influence of a combination of alcohol and one or more drugs which are not controlled dangerous substances and which are legally obtainable with or without a prescription;
- The operator is under the influence of one or more drugs which are not controlled dangerous substances and which are legally obtainable with or without a prescription.
Influence vs. Intoxication: The Real Difference
Perhaps the best explanation of the difference between DUI and DWI is that driving under the influence (DUI) is commonly thought of as driving under the influence of marijuana or pills, while driving while intoxicated (DWI) refers driving while drunk.
The first one, which is “driving under the influence” or simply DUI, is the charge that is typically associated with driving while high or after taking too much drugs, whether prescribed or not. Most instances revolve around the driver taking too much pain pills which causes them to drive poorly. We also see many cases when the driver is arrested for appearing to be under the influence of marijuana. However, it can also be applied to some drivers who are under the influence of drugs or certain medications. More and more states are now using phrases such as “operating a vehicle”, being in “top of form”, “bottom of form” or “physical control of the vehicle”, in order to broaden the situations, in which one may be convicted of a DUI, such as sitting in the driver’s seat with the keys in the ignition, even if the car itself is not moving.
On the other hand, DWI can actually stand for “driving while intoxicated” or “driving while impaired.” This term was very often used interchangeably with DUI since there are several similarities between the two terms. The drivers who are charged with DWI often fail a breath test, with results that are above the legal limit of .08. However, the drivers charged with DWI exhibit other indications of impairment, such as failing a field sobriety test, slurred speech, poor balance and/or driving erratically.
What is Worse DUI or DWI?
The consequences of DUI and DWI charges vary, depending on the laws of every state on drunk driving. Many states use the two terms interchangeably, as they are legally treated as the same crime. However, some states differentiate between DUI and DWI offenses, with a DUI usually being the one with the lesser charge. In these cases, DUI usually signifies less intoxication, as determined by a person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) at the time of the arrest.
In Louisiana, the penalties for DUI and DWI are just the same. Therefore, DUI is not worse than a DWI. A first offense DUI or DWI is a misdemeanor punishable for up to 6 months in jail. You could pay thousands in fines, penalties, court costs, and impoundment fees. Not only that, your license may probably be suspended, and worse, you may spend time in jail. And your car insurance premiums will surely skyrocket and remain high for a number of years.
Blood Tests in DUI and DWI Cases
Prosecutors in most states actually prosecute more heavily DWI charges than DUI charges since the breathalyzer and blood-alcohol tests results provide more concrete scientific evidence than mere field sobriety test results. However, police officers are now blood-testing suspects more often in Louisiana. If the driver refuses to do a blood test, the police officer may get a warrant from a judge ordering the blood test. If the suspect fights it, the police will pin him down in the hospital while a nurse tales the blood. The blood is then sent to a state lab where it is tested for alcohol and drugs. If the results show the driver/suspect had THC or any other drug or alcohol in his system, they will use those results to prosecute him.
Contact our Louisiana DUI attorneys at the Barkemeyer Law Firm if you have a DUI or DWI arrest in Louisiana. We defend clients for these charges all throughout the state.