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How DWI is different from DUI and what to do if you're charged

DWI, or driving while intoxicated, is a serious charge that could have significant repercussions in your life if you are found guilty. Having a DWI offense on your criminal record could cost you your driver's license, may disqualify you from employment opportunities and might even limit your ability to travel internationally.

It's easy to confuse DWI laws with those that apply to DUI or "driving under the influence" charges. While it may at first appear that the terms DWI and DUI are interchangeable, there are very definite differences between the two that all licensed motorists should understand.

The Difference between DUI and DWI

In the U.S., the degree of distinction between DUI and DWI laws varies from state to state. Some states make no distinction at all between the two. Generally, though, a DWI charge indicates a greater degree of impairment and is considered more severe than a DUI. DUI lawyers often work on behalf of their clients to get DWI charges reduced to a DUI, as DWI penalties are stiffer than those attached to DUI convictions. The other major distinction is that, in some states, DUI laws are designed to carry penalties for driving under the influence of narcotics and street drugs while DWI laws apply only to alcohol intoxication (or vice-versa).

The Severity of DWI Penalties

The penalty or penalties you will face if you are convicted of a DWI offense depend on whether it is your first conviction, how intoxicated you were and whether you caused injuries or property damage. A variety of other factors may also be taken into account, including your conduct during and after the arrest, whether or not you are remorseful, and how likely it is that you will drive under the influence in the future.

Typically, persons convicted on these charges face DWI fines ranging from the hundreds to the thousands of dollars as well as license suspensions, not to mention your court costs and legal bills. If you are a repeat offender, or if you caused serious injury or the wrongful death of another person, imprisonment becomes more likely.

If you've been charged with DWI, it is important that you speak to an attorney who has expertise in this branch of the law. Choose a lawyer with a proven track record of securing discharges for clients accused of driving while intoxicated.

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