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DUI vs. DWI

Posted by Aaron J. Wolff | Sep 19, 2012 | 0 Comments

The acronyms DUI and DWI may be thought of as interchangeable to some people. However, these terms often represent very different legal circumstances for individuals who have been charged with either offense. Some states recognize both DUI and DWI offenses, while others simply use DUI as an all-encompassing term that refers to intoxicated driving. In either case, the charged individual often faces severe penalties that can greatly impact their financial stability and legal standing. If you have been arrested for a Washington State DUI, consult with a DUI attorney. Only a qualified DUI attorney can provide you with the legal expertise you need to ensure your case is resolved in the most favorable manner.

What is a DUI?

DUI stands for "driving under the influence."  This may refer to any number of substances that can impair a person’s driving capabilities. Alcohol and illegal narcotics can contribute to a Washington State DUI, as can prescription drugs and even over-the-counter medications. No matter the legal implications of the ingested substances, should they cause a driver to exhibit erratic or reckless behavior while on the road, that person could be charged with a Washington State DUI.

In states that recognize both DUI and DWI offenses, a DUI can constitute the lesser charge. Often this may work to the benefit of the charged party. For instance, if a person’s blood alcohol content registers at .07, which is a hundredth below the legal limit of .08, they may be charged with a DUI instead of a DWI and given a lesser sentence. In other states, DUI is used to differentiate between the nature of the intoxication; a DWI arrest occurs when a person is legally drunk, whereas a DUI charge happens if narcotics or other drugs impair a driver’s actions.

What is a DWI?

A DWI stands for “driving while intoxicated,” or “driving while impaired.” As the latter definition implies, this offense results from reckless driving behavior as a result of drugs or alcohol. In states that have both DUI and DWI laws, a DWI charge typically comes with more severe repercussions. A breath or blood alcohol content of .08 is the legal limit in all 50 states.

Washington only has DUI

The state of Washington does not distinguish between DUI and DWI and all driving while or under the influence charges are filed under our state's DUI statute RCW- 46.61.502.  The statute reads:

Driving under the influence.

(1) A person is guilty of driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug if the person drives a vehicle within this state:

(a) And the person has, within two hours after driving, an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher as shown by analysis of the person's breath or blood made under RCW 46.61.506; or

(b) While the person is under the influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor or any drug; or

(c) While the person is under the combined influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor and any drug.

(2) The fact that a person charged with a violation of this section is or has been entitled to use a drug under the laws of this state shall not constitute a defense against a charge of violating this section.

Therefore, anyone who exhibits impaired driving as a result of drugs, alcohol or a combination of both can be arrested and charged with a Washington State DUI that carries the same legal ramifications as a DWI in other states. Moreover, while the "per se" legal limit is .08 (under section 1(a)), a person may be arrested and charged with DUI even if they are under that amount. Under sections 1(b) and (c) above, all it takes is for a person to be "affected by" alcohol or drugs to be arrested.  An arresting officer may decide that other factors such as lane weaving, slurred speech, admission to taking prescribed medication or failed roadside sobriety tests are enough to substantiate an arrest.

Each year, I represent several people whose breath or blood results were under a .08 yet they were still arrested and charged with DUI.  This is why individuals must seek the assistance of a qualified DUI attorney upon receiving a Washington State DUI.  If you have been charged with a Washington State DUI, call us at Wolff Defense today.  The attorneys may be reached 7 days a week at 425-284-2000.

About the Author

Aaron J. Wolff

A former DUI prosecutor, Aaron Wolff has over 16 years of experience in representing people accused of DUI and is recognized as one of the leading defense lawyers in Washington State. His relentless and passionate advocacy has lead to superb ratings and outstanding reviews from former clients.

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