What is the Difference between DUI and DWI?


Different states use various letter designations for the spectrum of alcohol and substance related driving offenses committed within their borders. New York recognizes DWI (Driving While Intoxicated), DUI (Driving Under the Influence), DWAI (Driving While Ability Impaired (by alcohol)), and DWAI /drugs (Driving While Ability Impaired (by a substance other than alcohol)). New York also prosecutes for Chemical Test Refusal and underage drinkers with a BAC of 0.02% or more, based on the Zero Tolerance law.

One question that often comes up is the difference between DUI and DWI. After all, both charges involve operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or any other mind-altering substance. Yet, there are some differences in the two charges.


One of the states known for DWI’s is New York. In the state of New York, the legal BAC level is .08%. If you are caught operating a vehicle with a BAC of .07% or below, you may face a lesser charge of DUI. This is still a serious criminal charge, of course, but it is a lesser charge than a DWI. A DWI, on the other hand, is a charge involving a BAC of .08% or higher.

Keep in mind that this differentiation applies only to charges of driving while under the influence of alcohol. While many states differentiate the two designations further by labeling DWI offenses as alcohol offenses and lumping driving under the influence of drugs under the DUI category, this is not the case in New York. Both offenses apply to operating a vehicle while under the influence of any substance, be it illicit drugs, alcohol, or something else. The degree of separation boils down to just how impaired you were at the time of your arrest, and perhaps how much the prosecution is willing to make a deal and reduce the charges.

If you are charged with a DUI or DWI in Rochester or any other local city in New York, it is important to understand the law and your rights, as well as the consequences you may be facing. Within this understanding, you certainly need more explanation about DUI, DWI, and the differences between them. You can learn more about DUI and DWI laws here.

Leave a Reply