The Difference Between DUI and DWI in Virginia

Technically, DUI means driving under the influence of some type drug. That can mean alcohol, prescriptions, or illegal drugs. DWI means simply driving while intoxicated, and in many states, refers to the use of alcohol. The use of the terms can be interchangeable but DWI usually refers more to the severity the drug has metabolized within the offending person’s body. The Virginia Vehicle Code § 18.2-266 says it shall be unlawful for any person to drive or operate any motor vehicle, engine, or train:

  • while such person has a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or more by weight by volume or 0.08 grams or more per 210 liters of breath as indicated by a chemical test administered as provided in this article,
  • while such person is under the influence of alcohol, while such person is under the influence of any narcotic drug or any other self-administered intoxicant or drug of whatsoever nature, or any combination of such drugs, to a degree which impairs his ability to drive or operate any motor vehicle, engine or train safely,
  • while such person is under the combined influence of alcohol and any drug or drugs to a degree which impairs his ability to drive or operate any motor vehicle, engine or train safely, or while such person has a blood concentration of any of the following substances at a level that is equal to or greater than: (a) 0.02 milligrams of cocaine per liter of blood, (b) 0.1 milligrams of methamphetamine per liter of blood, (c) 0.01 milligrams of phencyclidine per liter of blood, or (d) 0.1 milligrams of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine per liter of blood.

Any confusion of terminology used comes from Virginia’s use of the word “impair” in their vehicle codes. The term or variation of the word is often used interchangeably with intoxication. So, DWI becomes driving while impaired. Most agree that being impaired is a lesser degree of intoxication but certainly means being under the influence of the related drug.

Convicted first time offenders can receive stiff fines, revocation of license for a year, jail time, and mandatory attendance of the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP). The conviction, even a first time conviction, stays on your record permanently.

Effective July 1, 2004, Virginia changed many DUI penalties, increasing their severity. Whatever term you refer to drinking and driving or drunk driving, states are clamping down on these type traffic violations. When you face these kinds of charges, it is no time to handle your case all by yourself. You need an attorney who understands the laws involved in such cases. Contact us so that we can help you get in contact with a DUI lawyer who can help you understand the subtle differences in the legal jargon of Virginia law, and who is ready to represent your best interests.

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