Different Drunk Driving Terminology

Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is against the law, no matter where you live. There’s DUI, DWI, and OWI, but not every state recognizes these three offenses. But here’s a look at the differences in them. Check with an attorney or law enforcement official to determine the laws in your state.


DUI is driving under the influence. DWI is driving under the influence, and OWI is operating under the influence. In a state that recognizes both DUI and OWI, the DUI charge is the lesser one. That’s because it is usually a lesser degree of intoxication. In both cases though offenses include more than alcohol. Drugs, toxic vapors, and other chemicals are considered illegal while driving. This means sniffing or huffing paint fumes, butane or paint thinner can result in a DUI or DWI charge. Even too many over-the-counter or prescription drugs can lead to these offenses.


In the case of an OWI, operating trumps the word driving. An OUI (operating under the influence) or an OWI make it illegal to “operate or be in actual physical control of a motor vehicle.” So states that have OWI laws, a person under the influence of drugs or alcohol can be charged with a crime even if they’re not driving.

The car can be on the side of the road or in a parking lot with the engine running. If the person behind the wheel is drunk or high, that can lead to an OWI charge. That person could be passed out or asleep and never drove.

If you’re facing a charge with any of these offenses, there are plenty of attorneys out there to help defend you. Finding a lawyer is as easy as an internet search or recommendation from family or friends.