Many people may use the terms DUI and DWI interchangeably, thinking that they both mean the same thing-driving after consuming alcohol. However, the two terms are not the same and when it comes to motor vehicle offenses, the difference between the two may be the difference between a lighter and a harsher sentence.
In Maryland, the two terms, though referring to driving after having alcohol, differ based on how drunk the person actually is. A DUI, driving under the influence, is considered the more serious crime. This is where a driver's blood alcohol concentration is of 0.08 or more. Under Maryland law, this is known as under the influence per se.
A DWI, driving while impaired by alcohol, is considered a lesser crime. This is where the driver's blood alcohol concentration is of 0.07.
How does one find out what their blood alcohol concentration level is? If a police officer thinks that someone is driving after having alcohol, they can ask the car to pull over and ask the driver to get their blood tested. If the BAC is higher than the legal limit or even if the driver refuses to submit to a test, the police may actually suspend their license, effective for 45 days after the day they are stopped. Depending on the nature of the offense, the suspension may last from 45 days to a year.
Maryland residents need their cars to perform everyday functions, such as going to their job. A driver's license suspension causes them stress and anxiety and the longer the suspension, the more problems they will probably end up having. The difference between charges can mean a lessening of the penalties and less suspension.
Source: General Assembly of Maryland, "§21-902." Accessed on Sept. 15