Whether you say the word, “tomato,” with a “may” or a “mah,” you have to agree that you have a choice in how you choose to verbalize that particular fruit. Every state in the U.S. has similar freedom in how they choose to label laws, like drunk driving laws, for example. The main acronyms used for drunk driving are DUI or DWI, or even OWI, all of which have similar, but different meanings, and all of which may require another acronym for anyone with one of those convictions: an IID.
Between DUI, DWI or OWI, none of the crimes are technically worse than the others:
- DUI is “driving under the influence,” which can mean a person has been drinking alcohol, using street drugs or driving under the influence of prescription medications.
- DWI is “driving while intoxicated,” that is, a person is generally considered to be intoxicated by alcohol use. However, a DWI can certainly include prescription or street drugs.
- OWI is “operating (a vehicle) while impaired/intoxicated,” or, just another way of saying DUI or DWI.
None of the crimes are better than the other, either, as any sort of impairment from a chemical can be a dangerous situation for anyone on the road. Plus, each OWI, DUI or DWI you get adds to your total number of alcohol-related traffic violations, so even if you’re convicted of drunk driving in one state, it will most likely count against you in another, if you make the same mistake again.
There are also other drunk driving acronyms that are used, but not as commonly, and may have additional legal terminology behind them. For instance, a “DWAI” in Colorado is a “lesser” drunk driving charge, as a person is likely “driving while ability impaired” at a lower blood alcohol concentration (BAC) percentage than the national limit of .08 percent.
It is no better or worse to have a DUI or DWI, or vice-versa. All it means is that your state has adopted a particular set of legal terminology to define your crime. You’re not going to look any better in court when you face a DWI charge and not an OWI, and a DUI won’t keep you from an ignition interlock device (IID) requirement. Drunk driving is drunk driving, just like a “to-MAY-to” is a “to-MAH-to,” and when you get behind the wheel after drinking, few people care what your conviction is named, they just want you off the streets.