DWI Vs. DUI: What’s The Difference?

In California, Is My DUI Charge Worse Than a DWI Offense?

If you’re arrested and charged with DUI in California, you might think it’s the same as a DWI charge. Although they essentially mean the same thing, they, at times, could refer to different types of charges.

So, although the term DUI may be commonly used when you are charged with any impaired driving offense, your charges may differ under California statutes, and that could have a severe impact on your life.

The terminology used, “DUI” or “DWI,” commonly depends on where and in what state your offense occurred.

Drivers who have been charged with a DUI usually want to know if there is a difference between the two impaired driving designations and how any differences may affect their charge and subsequent penalties if convicted.

Although the terms DUI and DWI are used interchangeably by laypeople, in California, impaired driving is referred to as DUI. However, different theories of guilt can be implied and pursued by the prosecution in any DUI case.

In California, you can be charged in three separate ways, and there are three different statutes that you may be charged within an impaired driving situation. For example, you can be charged with;

  • Driving under the influence of alcohol (California Vehicle Code Section 23152).
  • Driving while impaired by drugs.
  • Or operating a vehicle while under the combined influence of alcohol and drugs.

Also, you should be aware that you can and usually will be charged with a DUI if you have a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher. If alcohol is the primary drug that caused your offense and charge, then this also allows the prosecution to pursue two possible different theories of criminal liability.

Additionally, the California DMV will usually not administer license suspension even if you are found to be under the influence of drugs or impaired and your BAC is under 0.08%. However, even if your testing showed your BAC was under 0.08 percent, you still may face an automatic license suspension if convicted.

Your driving privileges mean a lot to you and your life, and these charges are not quite as simple as they appear. Therefore, if you have been charged with a DUI in California, it can mean numerous things, all possibly severe penalties, and you should discuss your case thoroughly with the skilled DUI law team immediately.

Then What Are the Significant Differences In How I May Be Charged?

Although the terminology that is used may be a “DUI,” the type of evidence state prosecutors may use to convict you is one of the critical differences between California’s DUI charges and how they are applied.

If you’re involved in a DUI prosecution, the arresting officer will commonly testify to evidence they collected at the scene. Items such as the results of field sobriety tests and direct observation that caused the officer to believe you were driving while impaired.

Usually, the primary evidence is based on a chemical test. Therefore, if you took a chemical test, the prosecutor would use witnesses to testify about the negative results.

If drugs are involved, then state prosecutors usually will call a drug recognition expert to elucidate on your driving under the influence of drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol if they suspect both drugs and alcohol were present.

Of course, each DIY case is prosecuted differently and is unique. The severity of the incident, whether you had a child in the car or someone was hurt, will all directly affect your charges and subsequent penalties.

However, no matter the circumstances, these charges and penalties can have dire negative impacts on your life and career. For that reason, the sooner you get the help of a skilled and thorough DUI attorney, the better your chances of having a positive outcome.

What Are Some Penalties I May Face for My First DUI Conviction?

A DUI charge and conviction is a severe matter in California, and even a first-time DUI conviction can inflict life-changing penalties. It will affect you, your career, and your family.

A first-time DUI conviction is commonly deemed a misdemeanor in California, and you could face the following penalties:

  • Harsh Fines – Your first DUI conviction could impose a $390 to $1,000 fine plus penalty assessments. This could add up to thousands of out-of-pocket charges.
  • You can get jail time – It is also possible to get 48 hours to as many as six months in jail. Or, depending on the circumstances, the judge can order probation.
  • Having your License suspended – Commonly, on your first offenses (and if there are no mitigating circumstances), you will get a six-month license suspension. Additionally, if your BAC was .08% or more, then DMV will add a four-month administrative suspension on your license.
  • Possibility of probation – As a first-time DUI offender, you commonly will receive a three to five-year term of informal probation. With probation, you usually must complete a three-month DUI course. These courses consist of 30 hours of classes. If your BAC was .20% or more, the course is commonly nine months long and includes 60 hours of class time.

Remember that these penalties are inflicted if there are no other dire mitigating circumstances to your arrest and subsequent charges. Another thing you must note is as soon as you are charged, you should consult with a San Diego DUI Lawyer so they can immediately get ahead of the prosecution and attempt to lessen or otherwise mitigate your charges downward.

Can a California DUI Conviction Involve Life-Changing Penalties?

The simple answer is yes; depending on your circumstances, the penalties can be life-changing, even for a first-time DUI. This is especially true if your DUI includes deaths or injuries. If someone is injured, you can be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony DUI. These cases are known as “wobblers,” and you could receive a prison sentence of 16 months to four years or more, depending on your history and the severity of the incident.

For example, DUIs that involve fatalities usually are prosecuted under California’s vehicular manslaughter laws.

By using these laws, the prosecution can charge you with the following:

  • Negligent vehicular manslaughter while being impaired or intoxicated.
  • Gross vehicular manslaughter while you are intoxicated or impaired.
  • Second-degree murder, and more.

So, the penalties can get significantly more severe if there are injuries or other unfavorable mitigating circumstances. If your DUI charge involves any adverse or extreme specifics, such as entries or death, the immediate use of a skilled, knowledgeable, and aggressive DUI lawyer is mandatory.

I’ve Been Charged With a DUI in California; What Should I Do?

If you’re charged with a DUI in California, try not to focus on what you have to lose and immediately take positive action by consulting with a San Diego DUI lawyer with the resources and expertise to analyze your case and build a strategic defense designed for your case.

The San Diego DUI defense lawyers at Kersey Law have a long and winning history of defending clients’ rights and providing them with the best options to support their cases.
Call them today at (619) 432-3712 for a free consultation and get the peace of mind to thoughtfully and legally defend your rights and freedoms.

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