The difference between a DUI and a DWI

On Behalf of | May 11, 2020 | DWI Defense

The state of Texas has strict policies against driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Charges of driving under the influence (DUI) and driving while intoxicated (DWI) may sound similar, but they have some critical differences under Texas law.

How does Texas define a DUI?

The state of Texas has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to minors operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The Texas Penal Code forbids minors from driving under the influence of any form of drug. Even if the police only smell alcohol on a minor’s breath, any use of alcohol or a restricted substance will result in DUI charges.

DUI charges usually result in less severe penalties than a DWI because any amount of alcohol can be cause for these charges. Penalties include:

  • License suspension—License suspensions will last for 60 days.
  • Court-ordered treatment programs—Minors charged with a DUI will need to complete a court-ordered program to prevent losing their license. The program will address the substance use resulted in the DUI.
  • Fines and incarceration—DUI charges often come with a fine of $500 or less, and people convicted of a DUI will usually not face jail time unless they are arrested repeatedly for DUIs.

While these penalties are relatively light compared to DWIs under Texas law, DWI charges can accompany DUI charges for more serious incidents. As a result, they can face harsher penalties.

How does Texas define a DWI?

Driving while intoxicated (DWI) involves driving while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance. A blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or more is considered a misdemeanor DWI, and higher BAC can result in more severe charges.

While DUIs are a charge exclusively for minors, Texas citizens of any age can face DWI charges. Penalties are harsher than DUI penalties, and can involve:

  • License suspension—Whether or not an offender is convicted, they will receive a license suspension. First-time offenders’ suspensions will last for between 90 days and one year, and on subsequent offenses, the suspension will last for at least 18 months and offenders must pay a $100 fine for its reinstatement.
  • Court-ordered treatment programs—The court may require offenders to undergo a program to address the drinking or drug use that led to the DWI.
  • Fines and incarceration—First time DWIs result in fines up to $2000, and offenders may need to pay further fees to avoid license suspension or revocation. Offenders will spend a minimum of 72 hours in jail.

If you face either of these criminal charges, speak to an attorney about your legal options. They can help you create a strategy that prevents these charges from doing long-term damage to your life, livelihood and reputation.