The terms “DUI” and “DWI” are interchangeable for most people. They both mean drinking and driving, right?
Wrong. In Maryland, DUI and DWI are two separate (though similar) crimes. Both have to do with driving while impaired by alcohol, but the elements of the crime are different and they carry different punishments. Essentially, DWI is a less-serious version of DUI.
The crime of driving while intoxicated (DWI) is driving with a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of more than 0.07 percent and less than 0.08 percent. In other words, this is a crime for drivers whose BAC is just below the legal limit for DUI and cannot be charged with that crime.
As you might guess, the penalties for a DWI conviction are not as serious since the infraction is somewhat less dangerous. The statute contains a maximum sentence of 60 days in jail and a $500 fine for a first offense, though this sentence is unlikely. A second DWI offense can result in a year in jail.
A more serious crime
To compare, for a first conviction for DUI, the judge can sentence you to up to one year behind bars and fine you no more than $1,000. Those penalties go up by a year and $1,000 for each subsequent offense. So a second conviction risks two years in jail and a $2,000 fine, and a third offense can land you in jail for three years with a $3,000 fine.
Besides criminal punishments, a conviction for DWI or DUI adds points to your driver’s license. A DWI is worth eight points and a DUI will add 12 points. So it’s possible to keep your license after a DWI conviction, but a DUI conviction will cause your license to get revoked, even if your driving record was clean previously.
Did the police measure your BAC correctly?
The difference between a DUI or DWI charge may not seem important when you are the one facing possible jail time. But they show the importance of making sure the breath or blood test results are accurate.