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What is the difference between “DWI” and “DUI”?

In Minnesota, there isn’t any difference between “DWI” and “DUI”.  While the terms are used interchangeably by people discussing drunk driving,  technically speaking,”DUI” no longer exists in the Minnesota statute.

The drunk driving statute in Minnesota was originally entitled, “Driving While Intoxicated” (DWI). The legislature, however, felt that this placed an inordinate burden upon the state to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and so the statutory name was changed to “Driving Under the Influence” (DUI).

In January 2001, the legislature decided that “Driving Under the Influence” was still too difficult to prove, so they changed the statutory term to “Driving While Impaired” (DWI).

So while DUI technically no longer exists, the term is still used interchangeably with DWI. Some other states, however, do maintain a difference between “DWI” and “DUI”.  In those other states, a DUI may be considered less serious than a DWI and the punishment for DUI is less as well.

New York and Colorado use the term “DWAI” (driving while ability is impaired) to designate a lesser offense to their DWI statute.  Other states use the term “OWI” or “OUI” for “operating while impaired” or “operating under the influence”.

In Minnesota, a DWI encompasses not just driving but also operating or being in “physical control of a motor vehicle.  So a person can be just sitting in a car while drunk and be subject to a DWI prosecution.

A Minnesota misdemeanor (Fourth Degree) DWI is often reduced to careless driving or some other driving offense.  But there is no such thing as a “DUI” in the land of ten thousand lakes.

Contact Minnesota DWI Lawyer F. T. Sessoms:

If you or a loved one have been arrested for a Minnesota DWI, please call Minnesota DWI Lawyer F. T. Sessoms at (612) 344-1505 for answers to all of your Minnesota DWI questions.