DWI FAQ

What's the difference between DWI and DUI?

"DWI" stands for "driving while impaired" while "DUI" represents "driving under the influence." There is also a third, common term "OWI" or "operating while impaired." All three terms represent operating a motor vehicle after consuming enough alcohol to register a specific blood-alcohol level. The State of Texas has lowered the level to .08.

Do I have to take a breath test?

All of the portable devices used by police have to be approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and should be problem-free if maintained and used correctly.

Whether you have the option to choose the test you take depends on the state you are in when stopped. Refusing to take a blood-alcohol test can have serious consequences, including suspension of your license and being prosecuted for drunk driving.

Do I have to submit to a field sobriety test?

Field sobriety tests are used by an officer to help determine if, in his or her opinion, you are under the influence of alcohol and should be arrested for drunk driving. The officer may place you through a series of balance (walking an imaginary line or leaning back with eyes closed), coordination (counting on the fingers or touching a finger to your nose while your eyes are closed), or mental (reciting the alphabet or counting backwards) tests. The tests are often viewed as additional evidence which the suspect inevitably "fails". Whether you must comply will depend on the state you are in when stopped and requested to take the test.

Can I be stopped or arrested for DWI even if the vehicle was not moving?

It depends on the state you are in. In some states, the law says that a person is guilty of drunk driving only when actually operating the vehicle. In other states, having the key in the ignition will satisfy that the intent if there was the ability to operate the vehicle.

What are the penalties for conviction?

The penalties for a DUI conviction will vary from state to state and depend, in a large part, on whether this is a first, second, third or subsequent conviction.

All states impose penalties that include some or all of the following:

  • Fines, increasing with subsequent offenses
  • Screening for substance abuse
  • Community service
  • Suspension of driver's license, increasing with each offense
  • Point charges against the defendant's license up through revocation of the license for a predetermined period of time
  • Felony conviction with jail or prison time for a third or subsequent conviction

If my driver's license is suspended, can I get it back?

"Occupational licenses" are available under many different circumstances. The judge must find that an "essential need" exists, such as school or job commuting. The license is restricted as to routes, areas and times.