DUI vs DWI

by Aaron Delgado
01/25/19 (Updated: 01/30/19)

It is not uncommon to be confused about or unaware of the difference between DUI and DWI, especially since so many people today use the terms interchangeably. But are they really the same thing? To help shed some light on this issue, our legal team answers some commonly asked questions about DUI and DWI.

Is a DUI different from a DWI?

Ultimately, no. Both terms refer to “drunk driving” or driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. The key difference between DUI and DWI is that DUI stands for driving under the influence, while DWI stands for driving while intoxicated or, in some cases, driving while impaired. The reason there are two terms for the same act is that some states prefer to use DUI while others use DWI. That is to say, the act of driving while intoxicated is illegal in all 50 states, but each state refers to the crime in different ways.

Which is used in Florida: DUI or DWI?

In Florida, both the legal system and law enforcement refer to drunk driving and drugged driving as driving under the influenceDUI. A driver can be charged with DUI if they are operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, especially if your BAC (blood alcohol content) is over 0.08. If you’re caught driving in Florida with a BAC of 0.15 or with a minor in your vehicle, you can receive an aggravated DUI charge, which comes with numerous enhanced penalties.

In some other states, such as Maryland, both terms are used. For example, you could be charged with a DWI if your BAC is between 0.07 and 0.079 in Maryland. But in the same state, if your BAC is 0.08 or higher, you’ll be charged with a DUI. In this case, the DUI is the more severe charge. Certain states also have what’s called an OUI, which stands for operating under the influence. Other terms exist as well, but DUI is the most common. No matter what state you live in, you can use a BAC Calculator to estimate if you’re over the legal limit.

Is a DUI a felony?

Florida DUI laws state that nearly all first-time DUIs will be charged as misdemeanors. However, there are certain times when a DUI will be considered a felony, even if it’s your first offense. This is important information to be aware of as there are much higher fines, harsher penalties, and worse collateral consequences for DUI if you’re facing felony charges.

In Florida, a DUI is a felony when:

  • It is the individual’s third DUI within a ten-year period
  • It is the individual’s fourth, fifth, or higher DUI
  • The individual was involved in an accident that caused someone serious bodily injury or the death of another individual

How long does a DUI stay on your record in Florida?

How long a DUI will stay on your record will vary by state. Florida will keep a DUI conviction on your driving record for 75 years and does not allow any DUI convictions to be expunged. Since most people who end up with a DUI are at least 18 years old, this essentially means they will have that DUI on their driving record for life.

Should I hire a DUI attorney if I get a DUI?

In short: Yes.

The only way to truly avoid a DUI is to not drive after drinking (or using drugs). The problem there is that many people assume one, two, or three drinks will be okay, and they can still drive.

While you may feel fine, if you are pulled over for making a wide turn, swerving, driving suspiciously slow, or another activity associated with drunk driving, you could be arrested and charged with DUI. That charge can cost you hundreds or even thousands of dollars, depending on how many previous DUIs you’ve been convicted of. But it doesn't end there — you may be facing any or all of these consequences as well:

  • Losing your driver’s license privileges
  • Have your vehicle impounded
  • Have to pay for and complete DUI school
  • Be required to purchase and install an ignition interlock device for your vehicle
  • Have to complete mandatory community service
  • Serve probation and/or jail time

Getting a DUI is a traumatic experience, especially if you’ve never had a run-in with the law before. Many people who get their first DUI state that their emotions range from frightened and nervous to angry and resentful. Remember that a DUI is a criminal offense. In every state, DUIs are handled in criminal court.

A DUI Attorney Can Help

It can be scary to get a DUI in Florida, but a highly-qualified Florida DUI lawyer can help. You should always consider hiring a DUI lawyer if you’ve been charged with a DUI, and the sooner you do it, the more likely you are to preserve your right to drive again. Hiring a DUI attorney is a critical decision because DUIs will cause nothing but trouble for your life. They can be expensive, cause you to have your license revoked, and may even necessitate jail time - and those are just some of the consequences you will have to deal with.

It is well worth your time and money to hire an attorney who may be able to get your DUI charge reduced or completely dismissed. The most highly-qualified DUI attorney Daytona Beach has to offer will be able to assess your situation and find holes in the prosecution’s case. DUI lawyers specialize in this kind of criminal law, so they understand the case that the state has to make to charge you with a DUI and know how to successfully fight it.

So often, police officers make mistakes in their assessment of your intoxication (or lack thereof). They may have faulty breathalyzer tests, made the wrong assessment of which direction your blood alcohol content is going, or they may have done something else wrong during the arrest. You have the right to an attorney if you’ve been charged with a DUI in Florida. Contact us today to discuss your case with our accomplished team of DUI lawyers.

Additional DUI Resources

If you found this article helpful and want to learn more about DUI in Florida, check out some of our other DUI articles:

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