Legal Term Tuesday: Driving Under The Influence

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Legal Term Tuesday: Driving Under The Influence

Legal Term Tuesday: Driving Under The Influence

Justin Lavelle
September 23, 2015

This is the latest entry in BeenVerified’s legal term library designed to help you better understand public record information, criminal records and related terminology. The information in this article is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

Driving under the influence (DUI) is a crime associated with operating a motor vehicle while impaired, typically with alcohol. In fact, DUI is often synonymously used with the term “drunk driving.” But what’s the legal difference between driving under the influence and driving while intoxicated (DWI)? What other substances, in addition to alcohol, are considered under this umbrella? At what levels are you officially considered “under the influence?” And how does this vary by state? And most importantly, is a DUI or DWI listed on your public record?

Read on to find out.

According to the Chestney Law Firm, DUI and DWI are typically synonymous legal terms, only differentiated by state preference. However, some states make a distinction based on blood alcohol level (BAC) and offer a lesser DWI charge if the accused is under a certain BAC. In two states, Colorado and New York, the Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI) charge is used to signify this lesser offense, according to

DUI and DWI are most frequently cited in cases involving alcohol but can also include a number of other substances that cause a drive to be impaired, including illegal substances like marijuana and cocaine, and also legal substances such as prescription drugs, according to NOLO also points out that in some instances, driving after the taking of any prescription drug combined with an alcoholic drink can lead to a DUI charge, regardless of BAC.

The BAC legal limit is .08 in all states. provides a table that helps you hypothetically estimate the amount of alcohol ingested in order to hit this limit. Most states include am administrative license suspension (ALS) according to In addition, those convicted of drunken driving can also face the revocation of insurance and denial of payment of claims. Also, many states have made ignition interlocks mandatory for all convicted drunk drivers.

DUI and DWI charges are typically dealt with as misdemeanor charges for first time offenders. Extenuating circumstances such as injuring or killing someone while under the influence can easily bump this charge up to a felony, however, with those convicted looking at serious prison time, according to

DUI/DWI and all variant charges are readily accessible via a public records search. In some states, however, DUI and related charges can be expunged from the public record after a petition to the relevant court.

Celebrities who have faced DUI/DWI charges include former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb, Full House’s John Stamos and Public Enemy’s Flava Flav, according to

Disclaimer: The above is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.