Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) Law and Legal Definition

DWI or driving while intoxicated is drunk driving charge which is a criminal offense in most countries. Driving while intoxicated involves an offense of driving a motor vehicle after consuming enough alcohol to raise the blood alcohol level about the legal limit. A showing of complete intoxication is not necessary to support a charge of driving while intoxicated. State laws indicate levels of blood-alcohol content at which an individual is deemed to be under the influence of alcohol. The penalties for being convicted of DWI depend on prior criminal and traffic records, the level of alcohol in blood, and the specific facts of the case at hand. In the majority of states, a person's first DWI charge results in an automatic suspension of the violator's license.

Some States refer to DWI as DUI (Driving under influence) also. Whereas other states, differentiate between a DUI and a DWI, where the DUI is a lesser charge. States which have adopted the zero tolerance policy do not recognize any difference between a DUI and a DWI. However, in states where both terms are used, DWI usually refers to driving while intoxicated of alcohol, while DUI is used when the driver is charged with being under the influence of alcohol or drugs. DUI and DWI are also used interchangeably with the legal terms “Operating a Vehicle under the Influence”, (OVI) or Operating a Motor Vehicle while Under the Influence, Impaired, or Intoxicated (OMVI).

Laws regarding drunk driving vary from state to state. The following is an excerpt from a State Statute ( New York ) on DWI:

NY CLS Veh & Tr § 1192. Operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs

“ Driving while intoxicated; per se. No person shall operate a motor vehicle while such person has [fig 1] .08 of one per centum or more by weight of alcohol in the person's blood as shown by chemical analysis of such person's blood, breath, urine or saliva, made pursuant to the provisions of section eleven hundred ninety-four of this article.

2-a. [Until Dec 18, 2009] Aggravated driving while intoxicated; per se. No person shall operate a motor vehicle while such person has .18 [fig 1] of one per centum or more by weight of alcohol in such person's blood as shown by chemical analysis of such person's blood, breath, urine or saliva made pursuant to the provisions of section eleven hundred ninety-four of this article.

2-a. [Eff Dec 18, 2009] Aggravated driving while intoxicated [fig 1] .

(a) Per se. No person shall operate a motor vehicle while such person has .18 of one per centum or more by weight of alcohol in such person's blood as shown by chemical analysis of such person's blood, breath, urine or saliva made pursuant to the provisions of section eleven hundred ninety-four of this article.

(b) With a child. No person shall operate a motor vehicle in violation of subdivision two, three, four or four-a of this section while a child who is fifteen years of age or less is a passenger in such motor vehicle.

3. Driving while intoxicated. No person shall operate a motor vehicle while in an intoxicated condition.”