You’ve probably heard the terms DUI and DWI used in reference to drunk driving, but do the terms actually mean the same thing? While they are often used interchangeably, they can define different types of criminal actions. It doesn’t help that Minnesota has flipped between different versions of the abbreviation either.
Minnesota’s criminal code used to go with the term DWI, which stood for Driving While Intoxicated. However, the acronym was later changed to DUI, which stood for Driving Under the Influence. Lawmakers felt that DWI was too strict a term and required too high a threshold for the state to prove intoxication beyond a reasonable doubt, so they passed a law that changed the wording to Driving Under the Influence. Now, prosecutors only needed to prove that a person was influenced by drugs or alcohol in order to be arrested for drunk driving.
However, that changed again in 2001 because lawmakers still felt that the threshold for proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt was too high. After all, some individuals will show no signs of being under the influence of alcohol even though their BAC is above 0.08 or they have marijuana in their system. If they are not being outwardly influenced by the substance, it remained hard to get a conviction. This led lawmakers to switch back to the DWI term, but this time it stood for Driving While Impaired.
We can argue the semantics of the difference between the definition of “influence” and “impaired” if we wanted to, but simply put, lawmakers feel that proving impairment is easier than proving a person is “under the influence,” at least here in Minnesota. So while you might be told you’re being charged with DUI or see the term used in Minnesota, if you are suspected of driving drunk, you’ll officially be charged with DWI, which stands for Driving While Impaired.
What’s The Difference Between DUI & DWI?
In several states, DWI and DUI are classified as different charges entirely. These states usually specify a DUI charge as a lesser form of a DWI charge. A drunk driver who is close to the legal BAC limit (slightly under or over 0.08) would receive a DUI offense, while someone with a remarkably higher BAC level might receive a DWI. In these states, a DWI charge can oftentimes be reduced to a DUI charge—a less severe offense.
Some states use other terms to describe their drunk driving offenses. For instance, Wisconsin employs the acronym OUIL (Operating Under the Influence of an Intoxicating Liquor), while Michigan uses the term OUI (Operating Under the Influence). All of these various terms mean essentially the same thing—that someone is caught driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance. As we mentioned above, in Minnesota we use the term DWI, which stands for Driving While Impaired.
Minneapolis DWI Attorney
Minnesota has adopted a “Zero Tolerance” policy, establishing 0.08 as the legal blood alcohol content limit. Anyone with a BAC level higher than this limit can be charged with a DWI. As such, from a legal standpoint, there is no such thing as a DUI (Driving Under the Influence) in Minnesota. Driving While Impaired is the only legal term used by Minnesota DWI attorneys and other legal professionals in this state.
So if you’ve been arrested for drunk driving and need some help developing and putting forth a defense, reach out to the experienced lawyers at Appelman Law Firm. We have a long and credible history of beating DWI charges here in Minnesota, and we can help you out if you find yourself in a sticky situation. For more information, or to set up a free case review session, give us a call today at (952) 224-2277 or head over to our contact page.