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Dui vs. Owi: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 23, 2023
DUI stands for "Driving Under the Influence," typically of alcohol or drugs, while OWI means "Operating While Intoxicated" or "Operating While Impaired."

Key Differences

DUI is an acronym that stands for "Driving Under the Influence." It is commonly used across the U.S. to denote the crime of operating a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs. OWI, on the other hand, can stand for "Operating While Intoxicated" or "Operating While Impaired."
In some jurisdictions, DUI specifically references driving under the influence of alcohol, whereas OWI can be broader, including impairment from both alcohol and other substances. Both terms describe offenses related to impaired driving, but the specific nuances and definitions might vary based on local laws.
DUI charges often come with specific blood alcohol content (BAC) measurements that define legal impairment. If a driver's BAC is above a certain level, they might automatically be charged with a DUI. In contrast, OWI might be used in jurisdictions where any amount of impairment, even below the legal BAC limit, can lead to charges if the driver's abilities are compromised.
While both DUI and OWI charges can result in severe penalties, the exact nature of those penalties can vary based on the offense and the jurisdiction. Some states might use the terms interchangeably, while others might have distinct definitions and penalties for each.

Comparison Chart

Full Form

Driving Under the Influence
Operating While Intoxicated/Impaired

Impairment Type

Primarily alcohol, but can include drugs
Alcohol and other substances

BAC Requirement

Often has a specific BAC threshold
Might be charged even without exceeding BAC limit in some jurisdictions

Common Usage

Widely used across the U.S.
Usage varies by jurisdiction


Specific to driving
Can be broader, including other forms of vehicle operation

Dui and Owi Definitions


A common term across the U.S. for alcohol-related driving offenses.
DUI awareness programs are taught in many schools to educate teens.


Operating any vehicle while intoxicated or impaired.
She was pulled over and charged with an OWI after swerving on the road.


A legal charge that can lead to license suspension and fines.
His DUI conviction resulted in a hefty fine and community service.


A legal offense that might not always require a specific BAC level.
Even with a BAC below the limit, her erratic driving led to an OWI charge.


Reflects endangerment of road safety due to substance impairment.
Campaigns against DUI have reduced road accidents over the years.


Reflects a broader range of impairment beyond just alcohol.
Despite not drinking, he was charged with OWI due to drug impairment.


Driving a vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs.
After failing the breathalyzer test, he was charged with a DUI.


Used in specific states as a counterpart or alternative to DUI.
In some regions, you might hear OWI more frequently than DUI.


An offense indicating a driver's BAC exceeded legal limits.
Several checkpoints were set up in the city to catch potential DUIs.


Indicates the operation of machinery or vehicles under impairment.
Using heavy machinery at work under medication could lead to an OWI offense.


(obsolete) duo


Are DUI and OWI the same thing?

While similar, they might have distinct definitions based on jurisdiction.

Can OWI be charged without exceeding the BAC limit?

In some jurisdictions, yes, if the driver's abilities are demonstrably compromised.

Can you get a DUI while on prescription medication?

Yes, if the medication impairs your ability to drive safely.

What does DUI stand for?

DUI stands for "Driving Under the Influence."

Is DUI only related to alcohol?

Primarily, but it can also include impairment from drugs.

Are DUI and OWI felony offenses?

They can be, especially for repeat offenders or if there's injury involved.

Can you travel internationally with a DUI or OWI charge?

Some countries might restrict entry based on DUI or OWI convictions.

Is there a difference in penalties between DUI and OWI?

The exact penalties can vary based on local laws and the specific offense.

Is OWI limited to cars and trucks?

No, OWI can encompass operating any vehicle or machinery while impaired.

Is it safer to drive after using drugs than alcohol concerning OWI or DUI charges?

No, impairment is impairment, and both can be equally dangerous and illegal.

How do DUI and OWI affect insurance rates?

They often lead to increased car insurance premiums.

Do all states have the same BAC limit for DUI charges?

Most states have a BAC limit of 0.08%, but specifics might vary.

Can you be charged with OWI even if the vehicle is stationary?

In some jurisdictions, you can be charged if you're in control of the vehicle, even if not moving.

What does OWI represent?

OWI can mean "Operating While Intoxicated" or "Operating While Impaired."

What's the typical penalty for a DUI?

Penalties vary but can include fines, license suspension, and even jail time.

Can I refuse a breathalyzer test if pulled over for OWI?

Laws vary, but refusal can result in immediate penalties in many jurisdictions.

How long does a DUI stay on your record?

It depends on the state, but often a DUI can remain on a record for several years.

Can you lose your job due to a DUI or OWI?

Depending on your job and employer's policies, it's possible.

Which states primarily use OWI over DUI?

It varies, but states like Iowa and Michigan might use OWI more frequently.

Do DUI and OWI always result in court appearances?

Often yes, but specifics depend on jurisdiction and circumstances.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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