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DUI or DWI: What Are the Legal Distinctions?

May 24, 2023

As with many states, impaired driving in Arizona carries severe legal consequences. Two commonly used terms define these offenses, such as a DUI (Driving Under the Influence) and a DWI (Driving While Intoxicated). This article will examine the differentiation between DUI and DWI in Arizona, assess the criteria for prosecution, and the potential consequences corresponding with each offense.

What’s the Difference Between a DUI and DWI?

To understand the consequences of DUI or DWI, we must first examine the differences. A DUI charge in Arizona is defined as when a person operates a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. Despite the level of impairment, simply having a BAC of over 0.08% can put you at risk of being charged with a DUI. 

In contrast, a DWI charge is based on the impairment level, regardless of the BAC level. This means that even if the individual’s BAC level is below 0.08%, they can still be charged with a DWI if they show any signs of impairment.

Legal Consequences

If convicted of a DUI in Arizona, you may face significant penalties such as a driver’s license suspension, mandatory alcohol education or treatment programs, fines, probation, interlock device, and even incarceration. Some factors may pose the risk of increased severity in penalties for driving under the influence, such as impairment with a minor in the vehicle, prior DUI convictions within the last 7 years, or the occurrence of property damage and/or bodily harm. 

Important to note is that Arizona has a “7 Year Look Back” period, meaning if you have a prior DUI within the last 7 years, then the next DUI is charged as a second DUI with elevated penalties. 

A DWI in Arizona also comes with significant legal ramifications. Though the penalties are often not as severe as a DUI, individuals with a DWI charge may still face fines, driver’s license suspension, mandatory education/treatment programs, probation, and potential jail time. Though DUI and DWI are different in definition, they are extremely similar in potential consequences.

Prosecution & Legal Thresholds

The prosecution of a DUI charge in Arizona primarily relies on the individual’s BAC level. Police officers may use tactics such as breathalyzer tests, blood tests, or urine tests to measure the amount of alcohol or drugs in the individual’s system. As stated previously, if the BAC is 0.08% or higher, the prosecution can pursue a DUI conviction, regardless of the driver’s level of impairment.

In contrast, DWI charges in Arizona focus on the individual’s level of obvious impairment over the specific BAC level. This can include instances such as swerving on the road, going a different speed than what is posted, and of course, hitting objects or people with the vehicle. These charges often result from an individual’s demeanor, behavior, and performance on field sobriety tests.

Defense Strategies

Are you facing either a DUI or DWI charge and not sure what to do? It is crucial in either instance to hire a defense attorney. A defense attorney such as Jeff GOULD Law, the Attorney in YOUR Corner, can help ensure that you get the minimum penalty available.  Defense attorneys have the knowledge to do things such as scrutinize testing procedures or question the calibration of equipment such as breathalyzers. Likewise, they may be able to offer alternative explanations for the incident, such as medical conditions that may affect a defendant’s performance.

The Bottom Line

As with any legal charge, it is always advisable to hire a defense attorney. Defense attorneys are trained professionals who take the fairness of your legal consequences seriously.  Many people experience a DUI or DWI charge in their life, and it does not make them bad people. However, being a good person doesn’t always mean you are safe from the consequences of the law.

Contact Jeff GOULD, the Attorney in YOUR Corner

DISCLAIMER: The information on this blog/site is NOT, nor is it intended to be legal advice.  It is for general informational use only. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. Further, this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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