Recently on our DUI forum a user asked, “I have lived in multiple states. It seems like every state has a different acronym they use for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Last month I moved to Texas where they use DWI (driving while intoxicated). Can you clarify the different between DUI and DWI in the state of Texas?”
Driving while intoxicated overview
It is illegal in every state to operate motorized vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher. It is also illegal to operate a motorized vehicle with any amount of alcohol in your system if you are unable to safely operate your vehicle, which means you do not have the normal use of your mental or physical faculties.
States refer to intoxication with a variety of acronyms: DUI (driving under the influence), DWI (driving while intoxicated), DWI (driving while impaired), and DUII (driving while under the influence of an intoxicant). While most people use these terms interchangeably, there are subtle differences that could be important. L
Let’s take a look at the acronyms used in the State of Texas.
DUI vs DWI in Texas
DWI or driving while intoxicated is the general term for driving drunk for drivers over the age of 21 in Texas. Older drivers can be arrested for DWI (driving while intoxicated) and charged under Texas Penal Code Section 49.04 if they are “operating a motorized vehicle in a public place while legally intoxicated” (i.e. their BAC is above the legal limit) or they are impaired and do not have their “normal physical or mental faculties” and are not able to safely operate their vehicle, regardless of their blood alcohol level.
Drivers under the age of 21, however, may be charged with DUI or driving under the influence under Texas Penal Code Section 106.041 if they are operating a motorized vehicle in a public place with any detectable amount of alcohol in their breath, blood or urine. This charge is part of Texas’s zero tolerance policy which does not allow underage drivers to consume any alcohol and drive.
Can I still be charged with DWI if I am over 21 years of age?
Can underage drivers be charged with DWI (driving while intoxicated)? Yes, underage drivers may also be charged with DWI if they are operating a vehicle and their blood alcohol concentration is at or above the legal limit of 0.08%.
Penalties for DUI vs. DWI
Although the penalties for both a DUI and DWI can be quite severe and expensive, a DWI has more severe penalties.
Penalties for a first-time DWI (driving while intoxicated) include a fine of up to $2,000, jail time between 3 days up to 180 days, license suspension for up to one year, and an annual DWI surcharge of $1,000 or $2,000 for three years to retain your driver’s license. These fines and penalties do not include the costs of higher insurance premiums and fees charged by a DWI lawyer.
Penalties for a DUI include a fine up to $500, a 60-day license suspension, 20 to 40 hours of community service, and mandatory alcohol education classes.
If you are an underage driver in Texas you can be charged with either a DUI or DWI, it will depend on the amount of alcohol in your system. Older drivers, however, will be charged with DWI if they operate a motorized vehicle while intoxicated.
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