The Basics of DUI and DWI Laws

by LNLaw on October 2, 2012

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Your first course of action when facing a DUI or DWI charge is consulting a DWI lawyer. A DWI lawyer will have the experience necessary to understand the specific laws related to each charge in your specific state. Laws regarding punishments for intoxicated driving are different for every state, so it is important to seek the assistance of a lawyer who is knowledgeable in applicable laws.

The Basics of DUI

DUI stands for driving under the influence. Driving under the influence is defined as having a blood alcohol content (BAC) above 0.08. Many people prefer to refer to the act of driving under the influence as “drunk driving” rather than DUI. A DUI will likely stay on your record and show up in background checks. Having a DUI may make finding a job or a place to live more difficult because it could be considered a component of a criminal record. Not only can a DUI negatively impact your future, it is also a very prevalent problem in the United States. According to MADD, 1.41 million drivers were arrested for DUI in 2010. Of those, nearly one third are repeat offenders.

The Basics of DWI

DWI stands for driving while intoxicated. Not every state distinguishes between DUI and DWI in terms of the charges that will be brought against a person who has been caught driving while intoxicated. If you live in a state where DUI and DWI charges differ, the harsher punishment will be reserved for those receiving a DWI charge.

The penalty for a DWI often includes time spent in jail. The length of a jail sentence may depend on the number of offenses.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety outlines laws regarding DWI convictions that can give you an idea of what a state may require based on the specific charge. While this is just an example of one state’s laws, many states have similar penalties for driving while intoxicated. For example, subsequent offenses tend to be harsher, and driving while intoxicated with a child in the vehicle often carries a more serious punishment.

State Laws Regarding DWI and DUI

The consequences of a DUI or DWI can vary greatly depending on the state in which you live. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety explains that all states have now standardized the minimum BAC that is considered intoxication. As noted above, a BAC of 0.08 is defined as the minimum level for intoxication. However, 48 states have increased penalties for drunk drivers with a high BAC, in most states .15 or higher. For more information on your state, the Governors Highway Association publishes drunk driving laws for each state.

Consequences for driving with a BAC at or above 0.08 usually involve a suspension of driving privileges. Repeat offenders may even have their license completely revoked. The length of a driving suspension depends on the state and the number of offenses a person has. Some states do not require license suspension when a person is only facing a first offense, but other states require a suspension of up to six months even when a person has never faced an offense in the past.

States may require a person to have an ignition lock installed into their vehicle following a first or subsequent offense. An ignition lock essentially requires a person to prove that their BAC is not above the legal limit before the car may be started.

One basic rule when dealing with a DUI or DWI is that a DWI lawyer should be consulted. A lawyer with experience helping clients who are facing a DUI or a DWI is the best authority on the situation.

About the Author: Jeremy, an independent writer for, with a particular interest in DUI law and personal injury law.




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