The difference between DUI and DWI charges is the definition by which each state gives to driving under the influence and driving while intoxicated, but both are serious and dangerous traffic violations.

DUI laws vary from state to state, but most consequences include demerit points (for states with a point system), administrative fines and even a prison sentence. Learn about the repercussions of drunk driving in the U.S. below.

DUI Citations and Convictions in the U.S.

A DUI or DWI citation occurs when a driver is pulled over on suspicion of intoxication and issued a traffic ticket by the arresting officer. A DUI or DWI conviction happens when a court judge passes a ruling of guilt in the case of a drunk driving charge put forth by law enforcement.

Many states consider a DUI violation a felony or misdemeanor, making it a criminal offense due to the danger it poses to public safety. Every state’s handling of a related situation differs depending on the number of offenses and circumstances of the event. To learn more about your state’s DUI and DWI laws, please visit your state-specific page:

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Under the Influence Violations and Penalties

DUI consequences can vary depending on the motorist’s age, blood alcohol content (BAC) level and the outcomes from driving drunk. Each state has its own rules that deem an appropriate BAC limit that is considered unsafe for operating a motor vehicle. Likewise, the number of offenses allowed by drivers varies from state to state.

First DUI Offense

If charged with DUI citations for the first time, some states may allow for more lenient consequences than subsequent offenses. If a first offense DWI arrest is made with a BAC level of 0.08 percent or higher in Ohio, for example, consequences may include a three-day imprisonment, a fine of up to $1,075 and a license suspension of one year if the driver refuses the alcohol test. Hiring an impaired driving lawyer can help a first-time offender reduce or avoid the penalties associated with drunk driving.

Second DUI Offense

A second DUI charge is treated with more severity than the first, in most states. In Oklahoma, on top of the $100 fine and possible jail time of six months, a six-month drivers license suspension will also ensue. DUI probation conditions may also apply to a second-time offender in some states, which can include completion of an alcohol and substance abuse program or community service hours.

Third DUI Offense

Driving intoxicated a third time is considered a serious offense and will be dealt with accordingly. In many states, a third DUI offense will result in license revocation as well as high fines. Some states, like Oregon, allow for three offenses before subsequent violations will be treated in the same manner, with severe repercussions such as a revoked drivers license for three years and jail time up to one year.

Fourth DUI Offense

A driver getting a DUI for the four-time is at risk of accruing criminal charges in some states, such as Pennsylvania, where a fourth and subsequent DUI offense is treated as a first degree misdemeanor. What happens if you get a DUI four or more times differs from state to state, but the consequences can include a prison sentence as well as thousands of dollars in fines.

Fifth DUI Offense

Many states do not allow for DWI charges beyond three offenses, such as Rhode Island, which treats every violation after the third in the same manner. DUI offenses beyond five charges make a driver appear reckless and in some states lead to lifetime revocation of driving privileges.

Drinking and Driving in the U.S.

Driving intoxicated also includes operating a motor vehicle under the influence of other substances besides alcohol. DUI violations are taken so seriously because the presence of alcohol and/or drugs in a motorist’s system reduces his or her reaction time and ability to make safe driving decisions. A driver without full control of his or her faculties risks engaging in unsafe behavior that can result in severe injuries and death.

Impaired driving that causes vehicular manslaughter is automatically a criminal charge due to the loss of life. Hiring a DUI lawyer is an urgent matter in the case of causing death under the influence while operating a motor vehicle, so as to possibly reduce the time of incarceration.

DUI Attorneys

An impaired driving attorney is legal representation that specializes in the laws and procedures pertaining to the charge of driving while intoxicated. In some states, such as South Carolina, a DUI defense may be necessary upon a first offense, as in that state it is considered a Class B misdemeanor.

Hiring a DUI Attorney

Finding the best DUI lawyer for your particular case is recommended in highly serious situations where you are being convicted of intoxicated driving that can lead to a prison sentence. A DWI attorney can focus on specific levels of charges, such as conviction, citation, first offense or repeat offender.

Open Container Laws

DUI laws pertaining to open container regulations dictate the consequences of driving a vehicle while transporting an alcoholic beverage that is considered open, such as a cup or open bottle. Every state differs on how to categorize an open container and what punishment should ensue from failure to obey such laws.

South Dakota, for example, deems it illegal to drive with an open container unless it is in a separate part of the car not close to the driver/passenger area and is not accessible.

Reinstating a Suspended Drivers License

A DUI suspended license means a charge of driving intoxicated has led to a loss of driving privileges. Restoration of a suspended license may require traffic school attendance to satisfy court mandates. A DUI drivers license suspension in Tennessee requires proof of having taken DUI classes or a related program in order to reinstate driving privileges.

Alcohol Awareness Classes

Some states, such as Texas, demand a DUI violator to take an alcohol awareness class. Such DUI classes may entail lessons on the laws of intoxicated driving, BAC limits, the effect of substance influence on a driver’s abilities and DWI statistics in the state.

SR-22 Insurance

Car insurance with DUI conditions is often referred to as SR-22 insurance. The SR-22 filing is a liability statement certifying a high-risk driver who has violated DUI laws is in compliance with state laws requiring auto insurance coverage.

Some states, such as Utah, do not send motorists in need of an SR-22 form notification, therefore it is their responsibility to inquire with their insurance company for the necessity of such certification.

Laws That Pertain to the U.S.

Most states set DUI laws that limit the amount of alcohol allowed in a driver’s blood system before he or she is considered compromised for driving. Vermont, for example, sets the BAC level at 0.08 percent for drivers over 21 years of age, 0.02 percent for motorists under the legal drinking age and 0.04 percent for commercial drivers license holders.

Hardship License in the U.S.

For a DWI conviction that results in a suspended or revoked license, some states provide a hardship driver’s license that allows for limited driving privileges.

States such as Virginia allow for restricted driving privileges upon a first or even second offense in the case of a motorist who deems driving a necessity to maintain the household, which can include activities such as going to work, grocery shopping and driving to medical appointments. DUI violation conditions can be found on a drivers record.

Last updated on Wednesday, October 14 2020.