One of the most common questions I hear in my work with DWI/DUI clients is “What’s the difference between a DUI and a DWI?”
This is a very good thing to know because it underline the difference between commonplace usage and legal usage of terms.
In commonplace language, DUI and DWI mean pretty much the same thing: Driving or operating machinery under the influence of some substance that impairs your abilities, usually alcohol. It’s a very loose designation.
Legally, DUI stands for “Driving Under the Influence” and DWI stands for “Driving While Intoxicated.” You might even occasionally see the acronym DUID, or “Driving Under the Influence of Drugs.”
Virginia law, under section 18.2-266, generally writes the charges on the official paperwork as DWI. But many people in the legal system say DUI, just because it rolls off the tongue more easily.
18.2-266 is a fairly broad statute. It prohibits operating a motor vehicle — any kind of motor, even a forklift, if you’re under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or any kind of substance that alters your abilities, like cold medication. Even a prescription medication can cause a DUI.
So whether you’ve been charged with a DUI or a DWI, it’s pretty much the same offense because it’s breaking a specific law. Regardless of the circumstances, however, you should have an experienced DUI/DWI attorney go over your case for you. I have seen many cases where the defendant received penalties that could easily have been avoided with experienced legal counsel.
To discuss your specific case, call us at for a free consultation at (703) 934-0101