Generally, the only difference between a DUI and a DWI is what the acronym stands for.
People often ask me what the difference is between a DUI and a DWI. It’s a simple question, but one worth asking nonetheless.
Both refer to the crime of driving a vehicle while impaired with by alcohol or drugs or both.
DUI stands for “driving under the influence” while DWI stands for “driving while intoxicated.” Some states use the acronym OWI for “operating while intoxicated.” Other states use OUI for “operating under the influence.” Which acronym is used depends on the state in which someone is arrested for driving under the influence.
A California drunk driving charge is referred to as a DUI and is based upon California Vehicle Code section 23152 which makes it illegal to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol or both and illegal to drive with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher.
Some states do, in fact, treat the acronyms differently. In those states, people charged with a DWI have a higher degree of impairment while people charged with a DUI have a lower degree of impairment. As such, where a state differentiates between the two, DWI is the more serious charge of the two.
Regardless of the acronym used, you don’t want to get arrested for DWI, OUI, OWI, or a California DUI.