There’s no nationwide definition of driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated/impaired (DWI) after alcohol or drug consumption. In some states, they’re considered to be the same thing, while in others, DWI is considered to be the more serious offense.
Compare auto insurance policies
No spam or unwanted phone calls · No long forms · No fees, ever
What is a DUI? What's a DWI?
DUI is short for driving under the influence. In some states, DUI and DWI are interchangeable, while in others a DWI is considered a more serious offense than a DUI. Either way, DWI and DUI consequences can be severe.
Authorities commonly use breathalyzers to determine whether someone is driving under the influence of alcohol. DUIs are issued when drivers have an excessive level of alcohol in their bloodstream.
In the US, the legal limit for blood alcohol content/concentration (BAC) is 0.08%. However, some states impose a lower BAC limit of 0.02% for underage drivers. Others take a zero-tolerance approach with those under 21.
Sometimes the authorities don’t need a breathalyzer test to issue a DUI. They have the authority to charge people based on suspicion of alcohol consumption, erratic driving, or field sobriety tests.
DWI stands for driving while impaired or driving while intoxicated. In the states where DWI stands for driving while intoxicated, a DWI is the same as a DUI.
However, in those states where DWI stands for driving while impaired, the term can refer to impairment from different types of drugs, both recreational and prescription. In this case, a DWI is typically considered to be an even more serious infraction than a DUI.
Basically, the state where the offense takes place has a significant bearing on the legal outcome of DUI and DWI charges.
You should also be aware that in states with "implied consent" laws, drivers must take a breathalyzer test at the request of a law enforcement officer. Refusal almost always results in a mandatory
suspension of driving privileges. Some states will even revoke a motorist’s driver’s license.
How a DUI or DWI will affect your insurance rates
On average, auto insurance rates rise by 80% after a DUI.
In some cases, your insurance company may consider you to be too risky to insure, and they may non-renew or cancel your policy altogether.
The fact that insurance companies weigh DUI and DWI offenses differently can make buying car insurance especially tricky. Not only will the premium increases vary from provider to provider, but some companies will take longer to forgive these offenses or lower their rates than others.
If you’re having a hard time finding affordable car insurance after a DUI or DWI, sign up with
Jerry. Our trustworthy super app compares prices from over 40 major insurance companies to find you the right coverage at the best price.
"I was told a price on the app, so I called in to verify and it was exactly what I wanted. I went from $400 a month to $235. Pretty happy. I even got more coverage than my previous company." - Satisfied Jerry User
Thousands of customers saved on average $887/year on their car insurance with Jerry
This app is great, but the customer service is even better! Not to mention convenient! My husband and I got the lowest rate (much lower than the rates I was finding online through my own searches), quickly, and pretty much all through text message! Thank you so much for a hassle free experience👍
What's worse: DUI or DWI?
Generally speaking, DWI usually implies a higher intoxication level. As such, a DWI is usually considered to be a more serious offense than a DUI. Likewise, the penalties for a DWI are often more severe than for a DUI.
In some cases, offenders may have their charges downgraded from a DWI to a DUI, especially if it’s a first-time infraction.
Both DUIs and DWIs are serious charges, and convictions can have hefty consequences. Here are some common criminal and administrative penalties you could face:
- Tickets and fines
- Court fees
- Having your driving privileges revoked
- Community service or jail time
- Having to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle
- Steep increases in your car insurance rates
DUI and DWI laws by state
The definition of DUI and DWI can vary from state to state, and the following states have notably unique approaches to the way that they define and treat these types of offenses.
DUI and DWI laws in Arizona
Arizona DUI lawsonly uses the term DUI, and the Grand Canyon State is strict in its enforcements.
Firstly, Arizona is an implied consent state, meaning that if you refuse a breathalyzer test, you’ll receive an automatic 12-month license suspension.
Secondly, the "not-a-drop" policy means that drivers under the age of 21 can be charged over any amount of detectable alcohol in their system.
Even first-time offenses come with mandatory 24-hour jail time, and a DUI or DWI won’t ever be removed from your record. However, there are legal limits in place to restrict how long car insurance providers can increase your premiums.
DUI and DWI laws in California
California is another implied consent state, and the mandatory license suspension period for refusing a breathalyzer test lasts for six months.
Californiaalso institutes harsh administrative consequences for DUIs. For instance, you will not be able to take advantage of any available insurance discounts for 10 years following your DUI charge.
DUI and DWI laws in Georgia
Georgiadoesn’t use DWI. Instead, it charges drivers with either "DUI per se" or "DUI-less-safe."
A DUI per se is issued in situations when drivers exceed the legal 0.08% BAC limit. A DUI-less-safe refers to any type of intoxication that impairs a person’s ability to drive.
Erratic driving or swerving is enough to justify a DUI-less-safe, but a DUI per se must be proven with a breathalyzer test.
Georgia DUI laws
DUI and DWI laws in Michigan
Michigan DUI lawsuse the term OWI—short for operating while under the influence of drugs or alcohol–instead of DUI or DWI.
A driver can be charged with an OWI if they test over the legal BAC limit or test positive for other controlled substances. It almost always comes with a minimum 180-day license suspension.
There’s also a lesser charge in
Michiganof OWVI—short for operating while visibly impaired–that can be issued if a driver displays any visible signs of impairment. It comes with a mandatory 90-day license suspension.
DUI and DWI laws in Minnesota
Minnesotauses the terms DUI and DWI interchangeably, and drivers must be over the legal BAC limit to prove the charge.
Minnes0ta DUI lawsoutline three potential "aggravating factors" that could increase the severity of the punishment, including having a BAC level of more than 0.15%, having a child under the age of 16 in the vehicle, and having prior convictions in the last 10 years.
Minnesota does not allow the right to refuse a breathalyzer.
DUI and DWI laws in Missouri
In addition to the regular DUI system,
Missouri DUI lawsalso has a more serious designation called DUID, which refers to driving under the influence of drugs. This is never removed from your driving record.
Missouriis another implied consent state. If you refuse to take a blood, urine, or breathalyzer test, your license will be revoked for 12 months and you’ll have to install an ignition interlocking device in your car for at least six months after your license is restored.
DUI and DWI laws in South Carolina
South Carolina DUI lawsdon't differentiate between DUI and DWI.
It doesn’t require BAC levels to be proven to justify a DUI charge. This means that any driver who shows signs of impaired driving can get charged with a DUI.
DUI and DWI laws in Texas
Texas DUI lawsdifferentiate between DUI and DWI, designating DWI as the more serious charge.
However, the lesser DUI charge is only issued to drivers under 21, who can be charged for having any amount of alcohol in their blood since Texas is a zero-tolerance state for minors.
In addition, any signs of intoxication justify issuing a DWI, meaning you can be charged even if you don’t take a breathalyzer test.
is an implied consent state, so if you’re asked to take a breathalyzer test and you refuse, your license will automatically be suspended for 90 days.
DUI and DWI laws in Virginia
Virginiaconsiders DUI and DWI to be interchangeable, but it’s particularly stringent in the way that it defines impaired driving.
Anyone sitting in the driver's seat with the keys in the ignition can be charged with a DUI if they’re found to be over the legal BAC limit.
This includes situations where the vehicle is not running. If this is the case, you may be able to plea bargain down to a lesser charge called "wet reckless" in some circumstances.
Virginia also has a strict implied consent policy, and refusal to consent to a breathalyzer test will result in an automatic 12-month license suspension.
Finding affordable car insurance with a DUI or DWI
Having a DUI or DWI on your record can cause your car insurance rates to spike. If you want cheaper rates, it’s recommended that you shop around and compare quotes.
You can do the shopping yourself, but why go to all that trouble when there’s a free app that will gather quotes for you?
Jerry can even find you a provider that will help you fulfill any SR22 requirements.
Once you choose a plan that works for you, Jerry will handle all the paperwork and phone calls to switch you over to your new policy and cancel your old one.
And the savings keep coming even after Jerry finds you a great plan. Before every policy renewal period, you’ll be presented with more competitive quotes, which means you’ll always have the best coverage at the best price.
Jerry customers save an average of $800+ a year. And we repeat: this app is 100% free. There are no fees and no markups.
Do car insurance companies cover DUI accidents?
Car insurance companies may cover your accidents while driving under the influence, but your coverage could be denied if the company argues your actions were "intentional." If your insurance company does pay out, don't be surprised if your policy is cancelled.
After getting into an accident while driving under the influence, you'll be considered a high-risk driver, and your insurance premiums will spike.
How long does a DUI affect car insurance?
A DUI will usually stay on your record for three to seven years, though this time period could be longer, depending on your state.
Haven’t shopped for insurance in the last six months? There might be hundreds $$$ in savings waiting for you.
Judith switched to Progressive
Saved $725 annually
Alexander switched to Travelers
Saved $834 annually
Annie switched to Nationwide
Saved $668 annually