DWI means “Driving While Intoxicated”, while DUI stands for “Driving Under the Influence”.
Unlike a DWI, a DUI may or may not require a specific alcohol level to be met. A prosecutor must simply be able to prove that a driver was impaired due to alcohol.
In Minnesota, however, the terms DWI and DUI are generally used interchangeably. The original drunk driving statute in the state was known as “Driving While Intoxicated”, but was later changed to “Driving Under the Influence” because it placed an unwarranted burden on the state to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
In 2001, however, the state changed the offense yet again to “Driving While Impaired” or DWI because legislature felt that “Driving Under the Influence” was still too laborious to prove.
Whether the term DUI, DWI or drunk driving is used in Minnesota, these all refer to the same offense. Basically speaking, the offense refers to:
- The act of operating, driving or being in control of a motor vehicle while you are either under the influence of alcohol, a hazardous substance, or a controlled substance.
- Having an alcohol concentration over the legal limit as shown by the results of a breath, blood or urine test within two hours of being stopped by law enforcement.
- Having any amount of specific controlled substances in the system.
Of course, the severity of a DUI or DWI offense may vary greatly depending on the state you live in. A driver’s level of intoxication is identified by his blood alcohol level at the time of arrest. In certain states, drunk driving laws consider DUI to be a lesser charge, and a DWI charge may be reduced to a DUI in some instances. For a DWI charge to be reduced, conditions may need to be met—such as the driver’s regret for his actions, the incident being a first offense, and a blood alcohol level that was not significantly over the legal limit.
In New York, for example, a person with a blood alcohol level of .08 is charged with DWI. If he is found to have a blood alcohol level of .07, then he may face a lesser punishment as his charges may possibly be reduced to a DUI.
In Minnesota, an individual is considered intoxicated if he or she has a blood alcohol level of .08. You can be arrested for having a lower blood alcohol level, however, if law enforcement can show that you committed driving errors due to alcohol or drugs.
Being charged with a DWI vs DUI in Minnesota comes with severe penalties that range from fines and a misdemeanor charge to license revocation, jail time and a felony conviction.