November 29, 2019

Is There a Difference Between a DUI and a DWI?

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As a DWI defense attorney serving in Camden County and the surrounding areas, the Law Offices of Jason C. Pollack, P.C. know that you may have heard a number of different terms and acronyms for intoxicated driving charges. It’s understandable you might be a bit confused by them all, which is why we’re here to help clear them up for you and offer a more in-depth look at other intoxication charges you may not be familiar with. One of the most well-known terms, DUI, stands for “driving under the influence,” while the acronym DWI stands for “driving while intoxicated,” although there are instances where DWI stands for “driving while impaired.” While all the language sounds very open to interpretation, the actual offenses vary from state-to-state. All of these acronyms aren’t interchangeable, as these terms can have different meanings depending on where you are in the country.

DUI and DWI both mean that a driver committed an offense that risked the health and safety of themselves, other drivers, cyclists, or pedestrians. They apply to alcohol and illegal drugs and also to driving when your prescription drugs impair your abilities. It’s essential to understand the differences and effects each charge has on your record and life moving forward.

The Terms DUI vs. DWI Differ From State to State

While both terms are used to describe impaired driving, DUI and DWI differ across the nation. In some states, a DWI refers to driving while intoxicated by alcohol. In other states, it stands for driving while impaired (under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or an unknown substance). It’s best to be familiar with the definitions with the state you’re in. As a law firm servicing multiple counties in the Garden State, we’re here to let you know that New Jersey does not use the terms to describe different offenses. The statute N.J.S.A. 39:4-50 uses the term “driving while intoxicated,” meaning DWI is the official legal term for driving under the influence. However, DUI is recognized colloquially as referring to the same offense.


Believe it or not, there are more acronyms for impaired driving, like OUI and OWI. OUI stands for “operating under the influence,” and is used in only three states: Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. OWI, or “operating while intoxicated,” is a charge only some jurisdictions use. In this context, “operating” encompasses more than driving the vehicle. Even if a car is stopped and not running, someone can be charged with operating under the influence.

No matter what acronym a driver receives in any state, getting arrested for driving intoxicated is typically a time-consuming and costly ordeal. While we advise to never drive under the influence, we understand that it’s important to provide everyone with legal counsel and representation. If you or someone you know finds themselves on the wrong side of the law and require a criminal defense attorney in Burlington County or another nearby area, contact the Law Offices of Jason C. Pollack, P.C. today.

Author: Jason Pollack
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