DUI vs DWI: What's The Difference?

DUI vs DWI: What’s The Difference?

by Aug 20, 2020

Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal in all fifty states, and most states use either of two common abbreviations for that type of crime: DUI or DWI. DUI stands for driving under the influence, and DWI stands for driving while impaired.

While some states the two terms interchangeably, others use them separately to distinguish between different types of charges.

Outside California

In states where DUI and DWI are separate charges, a DWI is the more serious charge and carries more severe penalties. In these states, a DWI requires a higher burden of proof than a DUI.

DWI charges require a prosecutor to prove that a driver was definitely impaired, rather than simply showing they had alcohol in their system.

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California DUI Laws

Here in California, we use the term DUI exclusively. That means there is no such thing as DWI charge, and the term DUI is used for charges of either high blood alcohol level or driving while impaired.

In other words, California uses the DUI designation for both alcohol and drug related charges.

Penalties For DUI Convictions

While every case is different, the most common penalties for a California DUI conviction are:

  • Hundreds or thousands of dollars in fines and/or fees
  • Six months minimum loss of driver’s license
  • Mandatory DUI classes
  • Jail or prison time

DUI convictions frequently have serious and long lasting impacts on a person’s personal and professional life, and we strongly recommend hiring an experienced attorney to defend you against any kind of DUI charges.

You Need To Act Fast If Charged

Many people aren’t aware that the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has an automatic administrative suspension of your license that takes effect within thirty days of a DUI arrest.

More importantly, you only have ten days from the date of your arrest to request a hearing, during which you are allowed to have a lawyer represent you.

What all this means is that, if you don’t act fast after a DUI arrest, it’s possible for you to win your case but still lose your license.

To learn more about defending against DUI charges and to request a free phone consultation, please contact our office today.


At Quinnan Law, we offer every client a free phone consultation to discuss their unique situation and determine how we can help. To arrange a consultation, please fill out the adjacent form or call us at: (707) 540-2356.

We provide representation in California State and Federal Courts. We accept most major credit cards for your convenience.

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