DUI is an acronym that stands for Driving Under the Influence. What does “under the influence” mean? Drugs (whether legal, illegal, prescription or over-the-counter medications) and alcohol are known to affect or “influence” a person’s behavior. Alcohol is a depressant, which can slow down a person’s motor skills, therefore affecting driving ability. Drugs can be a depressant or a stimulant. A stimulant speeds up the body such as heart rate and metabolism and can also affect one’s driving ability.
In every state in the U.S. it is illegal for a person to be operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. You can be charged with a DUI if police have reasonable evidence that your driving ability was affected by drugs or alcohol. You can also be charged with a DUI if you are found to be driving with a blood alcohol content above the state’s legal limit.
What is a DWI?
There are some states such as New York that refer to drunk driving as DWI or Driving While Intoxicated. A person is intoxicated when he or she has consumed drugs and/or alcohol to the point where it affects their mental or motor skills. Some common symptoms of intoxication include slurred speech, fumbling for items such as a driver’s license, difficulty maintaining balance, red eyes and a flushed face.
If police consider you to be intoxicated, they will ask you to submit to a field sobriety test and a chemical test. A field sobriety test (like the Walk and Turn) checks your mental and motor skills to see if you are exhibiting signs of intoxication. A chemical test (blood, breath or urine) measures a person’s blood alcohol content. If you are over the state’s legal limit (.08%) you can be charged with DWI.
Other states that refer to drunk driving as DWI are Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, Texas and West Virginia.
While DWI and DUI essentially mean the same thing, the penalties vary from state to state. Other acronyms include: OWI: Operating While Intoxicated (Indiana, Iowa); OUI: Operating Under the Influence (Massachusetts, Rhode Island); OVI: Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated (Ohio); DUII: Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants (Oregon).