When you get arrested for drunk driving, you might be confused about whether you’ve been charged with a DUI or DWI. While the two acronyms are often used interchangeably, there is a big difference between the two.
Driving while intoxicated (DWI)
This simply means that you were caught driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) above the legal limit. In most states, this limit is 0.08%. However, some states have a lower BAC limit for commercial drivers, which is 0.04%. In Maryland, you could face up to one year in jail and a $1000 fine for a first DWI offense. Repeat offenses come with harsher penalties, including longer jail sentences and higher fines.
Driving under the influence (DUI)
A DUI refers to driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. This can include prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications and illegal substances. You don’t need to have a BAC above the legal limit to get charged with a DUI; even trace amounts of alcohol or drugs in your system can result in this charge. A first DUI offense in Maryland is punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1000 fine.
To make things even more complicated, every state has an implied consent law. This means that if you’re pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving, you automatically give your consent to a chemical test to determine your BAC. If you refuse this test, you could face automatic penalties, even if you’re not ultimately charged with a DWI or DUI.
Therefore, when you’re facing drunk driving charges, it’s important to understand the difference between a DUI and DWI. Also, while you have the right to refuse a sobriety test, you should be aware of your state’s implied consent law and the penalties you could face if you refuse to take it.