What is the Difference Between a DUI and a DWI? 

Many people seem to use DUI (driving under the influence) and DWI (driving while intoxicated) interchangeably when referencing a driver impaired by alcohol consumption. However, many states have different definitions and penalties for a DUI and a DWI. Under Arizona law, however, they have the same penalties, and the difference comes only from the technical definitions of each. Whether you have a history of impaired driving or not, it is important to know the difference between a DUI and a DWI.

Definitions of DUI and DWI

In Arizona, a DUI charge does not require a confirmed breathalyzer reading. A DUI focuses on the suspicion of anyone driving while under the influence based on driving, physical, and mental indicators. A person can get a DUI charge even if he or she has a blood alcohol content level beneath the legal limit.

The state charges someone with a DWI if he or she had a blood alcohol content level of 0.08 or more within two hours of driving. A DWI charge requires that the driver has a blood alcohol content level of 0.08 or more at the time he or she is driving.

Some basic similarities between an Arizona DWI and DUI include:

  • Both are criminal charges
  • Both can have an immense impact on your future

Most other states have different punishments for DUI and DWI charges. Courts consider DUIs to be less severe because the court bases the charges on suspicion, as opposed to scientific evidence. Arizona state law uses the same punishment for both a DUI and a DWI because it regards any drinking and driving as a serious offense, no matter the circumstances. Arizona courts determine the severity of the penalties according to how much above the legal limit the driver was at the time he or she was behind the wheel, as well as how many DUI and DWI charges he or she already has.

Common Arizona Testing Methods for Blood Alcohol Content

Arizona courts reference two different tests for measuring blood alcohol content. The first test is a breathalyzer. Breathalyzers provide data on blood alcohol content levels in a person’s breath, but some defense attorneys can refuse the reading.

Arizona courts also use blood tests. Many people argue that blood samples are more concrete and accurate than breathalyzer tests. However, an experienced defense attorney can also argue the validity of a blood sample in certain circumstances.

Defenses for a Breathalyzer

Many experienced DUI and DWI defense attorneys can successfully defend their clients against breathalyzer readings. They may argue that the officer mishandled or misused the device, violated protocol, or was too inexperienced to properly administer the test. The defendant may also have certain health issues that could have affected the breathalyzer reading. If a defense attorney can effectively argue against the breathalyzer reading, the court may offer a better plea bargain or dismiss the charges.

Defenses for a Blood Test

Though a blood test may seem like an air-tight piece of evidence, many defense attorneys can challenge them as well. Some attorneys will retest the blood sample at a different lab of his or her choosing, comparing the result to the initial information to see if it is correct. He or she may also challenge the qualifications and skills of the person who took the blood test, arguing that the medical professional was not adept enough or did not administer the test correctly. The attorney could also question how the professionals transported the sample and if each person in the process followed protocol. There are many ways an experienced defense attorney can refuse blood alcohol content tests.