In North Carolina DWI is a crime. But if you drink up in Charlotte and then (unwisely) drive down I-85 to Greenville, SC, you’ll be arrested for DUI. What’s the difference?
The answer is: sometimes nothing, but sometimes a lot. Different states have different abbreviations for the standard crime of drunk driving.
- DUI (Driving Under the Influence): The most common abbreviation. This can refer not just to alcohol but also other intoxicants, such as drugs, toxic vapors or prescription medications.
- DWI (Driving While Impaired): North Carolina uses this term. Some states make a distinction between DWI and DUI. For example, Texas slaps you with a DWI if you’re an adult and have a BAC over .08, but will charge you with DUI if you are under 21 and have any alcohol at all in your system. You are “under the influence” even if you’re not intoxicated.
- DWAI (Driving While Ability Impaired): In New York, if you are stopped while driving and your blood alcohol content (BAC) is above .05 but below .08, you’ll get a DWAI. The good news: DWAI is a traffic infraction, not a criminal offense. Colorado also uses this acronym.
- DUIL (Driving Under the Influence of Liquor): Not used by police, but it is used in case law. Massachusetts offenders must complete a treatment course called a DUIL program in order to get a hardship license in certain cases.
- DUID (Driving Under the Influence of Drugs): What it says.
- DUII (Driving Under the Influence of an Intoxicant): Oregon’s term for DUI.
- OUI (Operating Under the Influence): In states such as Massachusetts and Maine which use this standard, a person can be charged with OUI even if the vehicle is not moving. If you are drunk, and your keys are in the ignition, you are “operating” the vehicle and are in violation of the law.
- OWI (Operating While Intoxicated): Much the same as OUI. Used in Wisconsin and Indiana.
- OMVI (Operating a Motor Vehicle While Impaired): Ohio switched to this acronym in 1982.
- OVI (Operating a Vehicle Impaired): Ohio took the “motor” out of OMVI because there are vehicles, such as bicycles and sleds, that are not motorized but which can cause injury in the wrong hands
- DWUI (Driving While Under the Influence): Used by Wyoming for DUI
- DUBAL (Driving with an Unlawful Blood Alcohol Level): Used after a test has been administered which shows a BAC above the legal limit.
All these DUI acronyms can be confusing, but fortunately, most of us have little need to keep them straight. Just one thing to remember : no matter what you call it, drunk driving is illegal, dangerous and RRS (really, really stupid).