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What is the difference between a DUI and DWI in Texas?

If you are facing criminal charges pertaining to drinking and driving, you may feel confused about some of Texas’s drunk driving laws. Our state’s legal system is often complicated, and you are not sure what to make of the charges against you. One common point of confusion for Texans is the difference between a DUI and DWI. These two criminal charges can seem similar but have very different criteria.

Driving under the influence, or driving while intoxicated?

Driving under the influence, or DUI, applies to people accused of driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) at the legal limit of 0.08. They also apply to minors who drive with any amount of alcohol or illegal controlled substances in their systems. DUIs are typically Class C misdemeanors, which carry the penalties of a $500 fine and suspension of driving privileges.

A DWI, or driving while intoxicated, applies to adults over the age of 21. For law enforcement to charge you with a DWI, you must have a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) over 0.08. Because DWI is a Class B misdemeanor, the penalties are more severe. They may include fines, license suspension or revocation, probation, mandatory rehab or even jail time.

The DUI/DWI arrest process

The process of a DUI or DWI charge starts when a police officer pulls you over. They may ask you to take a breathalyzer or blood alcohol test. You have the right to decline these tests, but beware: The officer may then decide to take you into custody. If the police officer tries to question you about your alcohol consumption or drug use, you do not have to reply. Respectfully state that you are invoking your right to remain silent and that you would like to have a lawyer present during questioning.

If law enforcement does arrest you and charges you with DUI or DWI, do not give any incriminating information or plead guilty. You also should not attempt to negotiate with the state on your own. You have the right to an attorney at any point in the process—from your pullover to your trial.