The Difference Between DUI and DWI
March 14th, 2022
Contributor: Ryan Stowe
In North Carolina, the phrases DUI and DWI are used interchangeably. DUI stands for Driving Under the Influence, while DWI means Driving While Impaired; there is a difference, though.
While the terms DUI and DWI mean the same thing today, this was not always the case. Prior to 1983, North Carolina recognized a separate DUI crime that was less severe than a DWI. However, that distinction went away when North Carolina passed the Safe Roads Act of 1983. Today, any offense related to impaired driving in North Carolina is prosecuted as a DWI.
Regardless of which term is used, being charged with a DWI means that police believe you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol to an extent that impaired your ability to safely operate a vehicle. And the consequences of a conviction can be severe.
Penalties for a North Carolina DWI
North Carolina is a zero-tolerance state and severely punishes people who are convicted of DWI. When determining the penalties for a DWI charge, the judge will consider grossly aggravating factors, aggravating factors, and mitigating factors.
There are six levels of DWI in North Carolina with penalties that include:
- Driver’s license suspension
- Driver’s license revocation
- Jail time
- Community service
- Increased insurance premiums
You will also be required to pay court costs, even if you are not convicted of a DWI.
Determining Whether You Are Driving While Impaired
The most common reason for a DWI charge is driving while under the influence of alcohol. A driver who is over the age of 21 and who has a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of .08% or higher can be charged with DWI.
Drivers under 21 can be charged with DWI if their BAC is .02% or higher.
If you have a commercial driver’s license or have a prior DWI charge, you can be charged with DWI if your BAC is greater than .04%.
NC DWI Charges Include More than Alcohol
You can also be charged with DWI if you are under the influence of a substance other than alcohol. This includes driving while under the influence of marijuana, cocaine, LSD, or other recreational drugs, as well as driving while under the influence of prescription drugs.
If there is any amount of a Schedule I controlled substance in your blood, you can be charged with a per se DWI. This means the prosecutor can convict you without proving that you were actually impaired.
Schedule I controlled substances are drugs that have been classified as having no accepted medical use, that are unsafe, and hold a high potential for abuse. Examples include opiates, codeine methyl-bromide, heroin, and morphine, hallucinogenic drugs like MDA, MDE, and MDEA, as well as heroin, LSD, marijuana, peyote, and ecstasy.
If there is any amount of these substances in your blood, you can be convicted of a DWI, even if you did not show any signs of actual impairment.
Aiding and Abetting a DWI
North Carolina also recognizes the crime of aiding and abetting a DWI. For example, you could be charged with aiding and abetting a DWI if you give your keys to someone you know is under the influence of drugs or alcohol and allow them to drive. Aiding and abetting a DWI is punished as a Level 5 offense (the lowest level) but is still a DWI conviction and carries all the same penalties.
What To Do If You Were Charged with DWI in North Carolina
North Carolina DWI charges are serious. Even though DWI is a misdemeanor crime, the consequences can be severe. To protect your rights and minimize the severity of the consequences, you must act quickly and contact an experienced DWI defense attorney.
When you hire the Stowe Law Firm, PLLC, DWI defense attorney Ryan Stowe will carefully review the circumstances of your arrest and identify any areas where he can challenge the prosecutor’s evidence. This may include contesting whether the police officer had probable cause to initiate a traffic stop, your performance on Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs), how your blood, breath, or urine sample was obtained and tested, and whether the police violated your Constitutional rights.
Mr. Stowe has completed the same DWI detection training as law enforcement officers. He has also earned certificates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in both "DWI Detection and Standardized Field Sobriety Testing" and "Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE)." ARIDE is an advanced-level course, and it is possible that Mr. Stowe has received more training in DWI detection than the officer who arrested you.
To protect your rights and minimize the likelihood of a DWI conviction, contact the Stowe Law Firm today to schedule a free, confidential consultation to discuss your situation and how we can help.
The Stowe Law Firm proudly represents people who have been accused of DWI in and around Salisbury, North Carolina, and throughout Rowan County, Cabarrus County, Mecklenburg County, and the surrounding areas.