Many people in Colorado understand that drunk driving is a criminal offense. However, there can be some confusion over the two different drunk driving charges. Depending on someone’s situation, an intoxicated driver could be charged with a DUI or a DWAI.
Unless someone has had previous experience with either charge, it can be unclear which is worse and what the difference is. However, it can benefit all drivers to be familiar with these terms. Understanding the differences between the two charges can help remind people why they should avoid driving drunk and help them be better prepared in case a mistake happens.
DUI and DWAI basics
DUI stands for “driving under the influence”. This can mean driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs or a combination of the two.
DWAI stands for “driving while ability impaired”. Like a DUI, this can be charged when someone is suspected of driving after consuming alcohol, drugs or a combination of the two.
DUI and DWAI charges can be confusing because they are charged in similar circumstances. However, there are a few differences. The main differences to pay attention to include the degree of someone’s impairment, the severity of criminal penalties and the existence of certain administrative penalties.
Degree of impairment
To be charged with a DUI, someone must have been substantially incapable of driving safely. To be charged with a DWAI, someone only needs to be less able to drive safely than they normally are.
The degree of impairment is usually measured by someone’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC). If someone has a BAC over the legal limit of .08%, they could be charged with a DUI. An impaired driver could be charged with a DWAI if they have a BAC below the legal limit. Generally, this means they have a BAC that is above .05% but lower than .08%.
Severity of criminal penalties
While DWAI is a lesser charge than a DUI, it can still result in similar consequences. The criminal penalties for either charge can result in fines, jail time and community service requirements.
Someone’s first DUI conviction can result in a fine up to $1,000, up to 1 year in jail and up to 96 hours of public service. Someone’s first DWAI conviction can result in a fine up to $500, up to 180 days in jail and up to 48 hours of public service.
DUI and DWAI convictions both involve some administrative penalties, but these penalties differ. The main difference is that unlike a DUI, a DWAI does not automatically result in license suspension.
A DUI conviction can result in someone’s license being suspended for nine months. It will also result in 12 points being added to their driver’s license.
Someone who is convicted of a DWAI will have 8 points added to their driver’s license. Although a DWAI does not necessarily result in license suspension, many people with this conviction end up having their license suspended because they have accumulated too many points.
Either drunk driving conviction can be life-altering. However, every situation can be different, and sometimes there are options to limit the severity of certain consequences. It can be worth it for anyone accused of drunk driving to make sure they are seeking the best possible outcomes for their unique situation.