In some states, the criminal code refers to drunk driving offenses as driving under the influence (DUI) infractions. Other states may charge someone with driving while intoxicated (DWI) offenses. The qualifications for both kinds of alcohol-related driving offenses tend to be roughly the same in most states.
However, Texas is a little different, as the state has not only DWI charges but also DUI charges. Someone accused of impaired driving may wonder what the difference is between the two charges.
What separates a DUI from a DWI
When you look at Texas state law, it is clear that a DUI offense is technically the less severe charge. In fact, it is a violation of the traffic code instead of the state criminal code. A DUI charge will only occur when the person driving with alcohol in their bloodstream is under the age of 21.
Someone can end up accused of a DUI when they are under the legal limit for their blood alcohol concentration (BAC), even if they don’t show any kind of impairment at the wheel. Any amount of alcohol in the bloodstream of an underage driver is enough to trigger DUI charges.
A DWI offense is more serious and typically means that someone is over the legal limit for their BAC at the time of a traffic stop or a collision. The state can also bring DWI charges based on how someone drives, even without a failed chemical test.
How the consequences differ
Someone accused of a DUI charge in Texas will face a Class C misdemeanor offense. These minors will usually lose their licenses for up to 60 days and may have to attend alcohol classes. The courts may also order fines of up to $500 and require that they perform 40 hours of community service.
A DWI charge is often a Class B misdemeanor, although it can be a Class A misdemeanor if you have a very high BAC. Repeat offenses and drunk driving scenarios where someone hurts another person could lead to felony charges. The penalties will be more severe for a DWI charge and will typically involve jail time, license suspension and fines that could cost thousands of dollars.
Making sense of the complex laws that apply to intoxication at the wheel can help those accused of an impaired driving offense better plan how to defend themselves.