Depending on the state and how it defines impaired driving, the terms DWI and DUI may have different meanings, or may be used interchangeably. In Minnesota, the terms are typically used interchangeably.
When outlined separately, they are typically characterized as:
DWI: If a person operating a motor vehicle has an alcohol level over the legal limit, then they are legally considered intoxicated; thus, they would be charged with a DWI, or Driving While Intoxicated.
DUI: A DUI charge, or Driving Under the Influence, does not require a specific alcohol level, so those under the legal limit can be charged. As long as the prosecution can successfully prove the driver was impaired due to the alcohol, the defendant could be convicted.
Similarly, a person has used drugs (whether street drugs or prescription medication) could be charged with DUI. To be convicted, the prosecutor has to prove that the substance they were under impaired their ability to drive.
In Minnesota, the consequences are the same whether the charge is DUI or DWI. In fact, in many cases, the driver is initially charged with both violations. In other words, the prosecutor will accuse the driver of both having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more and being under the influence.
In Minnesota, the statute is titled “Driving While Impaired.” A person can be charged with violating this statute if they are operating a motor vehicle while:
- Under the influence of alcohol;
- Under the influence of a controlled substance;
- Under the influence of an intoxicating substance they know or have reason to know has the capacity to cause impairment;
- Under the influence of a combination of the above;
- Has an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more at the time or within two hours;
- Has an alcohol concentration of 0.04 at the time or within two hours and the incident involved a commercial vehicle;
- The person’s body contained any amount of a Schedule I or Schedule II controlled substance or its metabolite, except marijuana or THC.
Additionally, a person can be charged in Minnesota with violating the Driving While Impaired statute if they refuse to submit to breath testing, or to cooperate with a warrant for their blood or urine.
Depending on the aggravating factors, a DWI charge can be a misdemeanor, a gross misdemeanor, or a felony. The civil and administrative penalties can also be severe, and may include loss of driving privileges, license plate impoundment, and forfeiture of the vehicle.
These cases can be complicated and have lasting impacts. If you or someone you know has been charged with a DWI or DUI, the attorneys at F. Clayton Tyler can expertly navigate all aspects or your case, including representing and advocating for you in a court of law.