What’s the difference between a DUI and a DWI? (2020 Laws + Rates)

Is there a difference between a DUI and a DWI charge? In states with both, blood alcohol levels above 0.08 percent are usually a DWI, while lower (but still illegal) limits are a DUI. Another difference between DUI and DWI is that some states will charge drug intoxication as DWI and alcohol intoxication as DUI. Read our guide to find more information on the differences between DUI and DWI in your state. If you've been charged with DUI or DWI, enter your ZIP code below to find cheap auto insurance quotes.

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Rachel Bodine graduated from college with a BA in English. She has since worked as a Feature Writer in the insurance industry and gained a deep knowledge of state and countrywide insurance laws and rates. Her research and writing focus on helping readers understand their insurance coverage and how to find savings. Her expert advice on insurance has been featured on sites like PhotoEnforced, All...

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Written by Rachel Bodine
Insurance Feature Writer Rachel Bodine

Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insurance...

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Reviewed by Leslie Kasperowicz
Farmers CSR for 4 Years Leslie Kasperowicz

UPDATED: Jul 20, 2021

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DUI-Related Abbreviations and Meanings
DUIDriving Under the Influence
DWIDriving While Intoxicated or Impaired
OWIOperating While Intoxicated or Impaired
OUIOperating Under the Influence
DWAIDriving While Ability Impaired
DUIIDriving Under the Influence of Intoxicants
OVIOperating a Vehicle Impaired
OMVIOperating a Motor Vehicle While Intoxicated
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Most people use the term DUI and DWI interchangeably, but is that correct? DUI stands for Driving Under the Influence, while DWI stands for Driving While Impaired. So, what’s the difference between a DUI and a DWI?

We are going to explain how these two offenses differ and how they are the same. One thing for sure is driving under the influence of any substance is dangerous and can cause a major spike in your car insurance rate. We will look at car insurance rates and the effects of a DUI or DWI on your auto insurance premium.

Ready to start looking for cheaper car insurance quotes, even with a DUI? You can enter your ZIP code here to find the best rates regardless of your driving record.

The Difference Between DUI and DWI

What’s the difference between DUI and DWI? These terms are very similar but slightly different which can be confusing. Some states even use DWI as Driving While Intoxicated, which is the same as DUI.

We are going to be looking at the difference between Driving Under the Influence and Driving While Impaired. Let’s first take a look at Driving Under the Influence.

DUI versus DWI By State

DUI stands for Driving Under the Influence. Usually, this means driving under the influence of alcohol. So what’s a DWI charge and how bad is a DWI?

DWI stands for Driving While Impaired. This term can have a broader meaning. While alcohol can definitely impair your driving, this term is usually used when a driver is impaired by drugs, prescribed or recreational.

States can have differing levels of DUI/DWI charges. For instance, let’s take a look at New York.

New York has two categories of impaired driving which are:

  • Driving While Ability Impaired
  • Driving While Intoxicated

DWAI is then broken down into three sub-categories. These include alcohol, drug, or combination impairment.

Now that we have talked about a DUI vs DWI in NY, let’s look at a few more states for comparison.

DUI vs DWI in Texas

What is the difference between a DUI and a DWI in Texas? A DUI is a charge under the Texas Penal Code, while a DWI is charged under the Texas Criminal Code. So what’s worse, a DUI or a DWI? In this case, the DWI is a more serious charge because it’s a criminal charge and not a moving violation. Just how bad is a DWI then? Well, it depends on the circumstances and how many prior offenses are on your record.

DWI vs DUI in California

The state of California uses the term DUI, or driving under the influence, almost exclusively. While the term DWI may be used by residents, legally the charge is a DUI, and that is what goes on your record.

DUI vs DWI in Maryland

Maryland law uses both terms, and each is a different offense. Driving While Impaired by Alcohol (DWI) has lesser fines and penalties than Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol (DUI). For both, DUI penalties and DWI penalties increase with repeat offenses. The difference between the two, according to the People’s Law Library of Maryland, is your blood alcohol level (BAC). 0.07 to 0.08 percent is a DWI, while 0.08 percent or higher is a DUI.

DUI vs DWI in Florida

Like California, the only legally used term in Florida is DUI, or Driving Under the Influence. DWI is still used in non-legal conversation, but DUI is the only actual chargeable offense.

DWI vs DUI in Oklahoma

Oklahoma is another state where DUI and DWI are two separate offenses. A DUI offense is  more serious  and is charged when the driver’s BAC is 0.08 or higher. A DWI offense is a lesser charge for a BAC of 0.06 or 0.07.

Which is worse DUI or DWI in NC?

Historically, DWI was considered a higher charge, but NC has consolidated both terms under a single umbrella, and only charges a DWI.

These are just a few examples, and as you can see states really do vary. Check out your state’s laws in the statutes or through your local DMV.

Regardless of state laws and terminology, a major consequence of any DUI/DWI charge is the high cost of DUI car insurance rates. Let’s take a look at how your car insurance rates can be affected.While the wording can vary from state to state, the meaning is essentially the same.  Driving under the influence of being impaired by any substance, alcohol or drugs, can lead to an arrest and severe consequences.

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Auto Insurance Rates and DUI/DWI

Auto insurance companies use many factors when determining your auto insurance premium. Auto insurance companies look at how much of a risk a driver will be when they are insuring them.

Each factor can help an insurance company determine the insurance premium of a driver. Let’s look at some factors that most auto insurance companies look at when getting your rate.

Auto Insurance Rates by Driver’s Age

The age of a driver can tell the auto insurance company how much experience a driver may have. A younger driver will have a significantly higher auto insurance rate than a driver with decades of experience.

Let’s look at the rates below based on age.

Liberty Mutual Auto Insurance Rates by Age and Gender
DemographicsAverage Rates
Married 60-year-old female$3,445.00
Married 60-year-old male$3,680.53
Married 35-year-old female$3,802.77
Married 35-year-old male$3,856.84
Single 25-year-old female$3,959.67
Single 25-year-old male$4,503.13
Single 17-year-old female$11,621.01
Single 17-year-old male$13,718.69
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The rates are from Liberty Mutual Insurance Company. A 17-year-old driver can pay as much as $9,000 more than a driver that is 25-years-old.

Auto Insurance Rates by Garaging Address and ZIP code

Have you ever wondered why your friend or family member can have a similar car and driving record yet pay a lot less from their insurance?

If you have, it could be due to the higher cost of insurance rates in some ZIP codes.

Auto insurance companies look at where vehicles are garaged for several different reasons. One reason is traffic and parking. If you live in an area with more parking garages or street parking with heavier traffic, you could pay more for insurance than someone living in a quiet area with cars parked in driveways or home garages.

Another reason auto insurance companies look at ZIP code and address is due to the crime rate and potential claim filings. If you live in a higher crime area, your auto insurance company is taking a risk that you could potentially be a victim of vandalism or theft and may need to file a claim.

Auto Insurance Rates by Credit History

Credit History is often looked at for big purchases. When you are buying a home, car, or trying to get a lower interest rate is when most people think their credit matters.

Did you know it can affect your auto insurance premium? The answer is yes.

Check out the rates below from some of the biggest auto insurance companies.

State Farm Auto Insurance Rates based on Credit History
American Family$2,691.74$3,169.53$4,467.98
Liberty Mutual$4,388.18$5,604.24$8,802.22
State Farm$2,174.26$2,853.00$4,951.20
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We took a look at good, fair, and poor credit history rates. Allstate and Liberty Mutual have the largest increase for poor credit history.

Auto Insurance Rates by Driving Record

Your driving record is probably one of the most obvious factors that auto insurance companies will look at when getting you a rate for auto insurance. This is also where your DUI conviction or DWI conviction will affect your insurance rate.

Average Auto Insurance Rates based on Driving History
GroupClean RecordWith 1 AccidentWith 1 DUIWith 1 Speeding Violation
American Family$2,693.61$3,722.75$4,330.24$3,025.74
State Farm$2,821.18$3,396.01$3,636.80$3,186.01
Liberty Mutual$4,774.30$6,204.78$7,613.48$5,701.26
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A DUI charge on your record can almost double your insurance rate. No matter what your state calls it, whether DUI or DWI, your rates will drastically go up with any charge of impaired driving.

Why does your auto insurance rate drastically go up? Again, this type of charge shows you are a risky driver, and auto insurance companies will charge a higher premium at the risk you may have an accident and need to file a claim for yourself or someone else.

How long will a DUI or DWI affect my auto insurance rate?

Once you get a DUI or DWI charge, you may wonder how long it will stay on your insurance record. Auto insurance companies have look-back periods. This simply means it is the period of time an auto insurance company can look at your prior record when determining your insurance rate.

Each state has its own law regarding a look-back period. Most states fall in the range of 5-10 years.

Will my insurance company be alerted of a DUI/DWI?

Most auto insurance companies run motor vehicle reports at renewal. So, if you get a ticket or any other charge, your auto insurance company will not find out right away.

With a DUI/DWI charge, it is best to be upfront and honest with your auto insurance carrier. In some cases, your state may require you to have an SR-22 filing.

This filing can only be done by your auto insurance carrier and would require you immediately telling your insurance carrier about your charge.

SR-22 Filing for Auto Insurance

Certain auto-related convictions, like a DUI/DWI or multiple speeding violations, will require the need for your auto insurance company to file an SR-22 certificate.

An SR-22 form is not a type of insurance policy. This is simply a filing that your auto insurance company files with the state or department of motor vehicles to verify that the driver has the state’s minimum required insurance liability limits.

Depending on your state, you may need to continue to file an SR-22 certificate for 1-5 years.

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State Laws and DUI/DWI Convictions

What happens when you get a DWI? Is a DWI considered a crime? Each state has laws regarding DUI and DWI charges. Below is a table that shows jail time, fines, license suspension, and ignition interlock system requirements by state.

First Offense DUI/DWI Laws by State
StateMinimum JailFines & FeesMinimum License SuspensionIgnition Interlock Device Required
AlabamaNone$600 to $2,10090 DaysNo
AlaskaMin. 72 hours$1,500Min. 90 daysYes
ArizonaMin. 24 hours$250 base fine90 to 360 daysYes
Arkansas24 hours to 1 year$150 to $1,0006 monthsYes
California4 days to 6 months$1,400 to $2,60030 days to 10 monthsYes, in some counties
ColoradoUp to 1 year (DUI), or up to 180 days (DWAI)Up to $1,000 (DUI), or up to $500 (DWAI)9 months (DUI), none for DWAINo
Connecticut2 days up to 6 months$500 to $1,0001 yearNo
DelawareMax. 6 months$500 to $1,15001 to 2 yearsNo
D.C.Max 90 days$300 to $1,1006 monthsNo
Florida6 to 9 months$500 to $2,000180 days to 1 yearYes
Georgia24 hours to 1 year$300 to $1,000Up to 1 yearNo
HawaiiNone$150 to $1,00090 daysNo
IdahoUp to 6 monthsUp to $1,00090 to 180 daysNo
IllinoisUp to 1 yearUp to $2,500Min. 1 yearYes
Indiana60 days to 1 year$500 to $5,000Up to 2 yearsNo
Iowa48 hours up to 1 year$625 to $1,200180 daysYes, if BAC above .10
Kansas48 hour min.$750 to $1,00030 daysYes
KentuckyNone$600 to $2,10090 daysNo
Louisiana2 days to 6 months$1,00090 daysPossible
Maine30 days$50090 daysNo
MarylandUp to 1 year (DUI); up to 2 months (DWI)Up to $1,000 (DUI); up to $500 (DWI)Min 6 months (DUI & DWI)No
MassachusettsUp to 30 months$500 to $5,0001 yearNo
MichiganUp to 93 daysFrom $100 to $500Up to 6 monthsPossible
MinnesotaUp to 90 days$1,000Up to 90 daysYes
MississippiUp to 48 hours$250 to $1,00090 daysNo
MissouriUp to 6 monthsUp to $50030 daysPossible
Montana2 days to 6 months$300 to $1,0006 monthsPossible
Nebraska7 to 60 daysUp to $500Up to 60 daysNo
Nevada2 days to 6 months$400 to $1,00090 daysPossible
New HampshireNone$500 to $1,2006 monthsNo
New JerseyUp to 30 days$250 to $5003 months to 1 yearPossible
New MexicoUp to 90 daysUp to $500Up to 1 yearYes
New YorkNone$500 to $1,0006 monthsYes
North Carolina24 hours (for level 5 offender) (however, if 3 aggravated factors are present -- Level 1A -- minimum of 12 months)$200 (for level 5 offendor)60 days to 1 yearNo
North DakotaNone$500 to $75091 to 180 daysNo
Ohio3 days to 6 months$250 to $1,0006 months to 3 yearsNo
Oklahoma5 days to 1 yearUp to $1,00030 daysNo
Oregon2 days or 80 hours community services$1,000 to $6,2501 yearYes
PennsylvaniaNone$300NoYes, if refusal to take chemical test
Rhode IslandUp to 1 year$100 to $5002 to 18 monthsNo
South Carolina48 hours to 90 days$400 to $1,0006 monthsNo
South DakotaUp to 1 year$1,00030 days to 1 yearNo
Tennessee48 hours up to 11 months$350 to $1,5001 yearYes
Texas3 to 180 daysUp to $2,00090 to 365 daysNo
Utah48 hours min.$700 min.120 daysNo
VermontUp to 2 yearsUp to $75090 daysNo
VirginiaMin. 5 daysMin. $2501 yearYes (if BAC .15 or above)
Washington24 hours to 1 year$865.50 to $5,00090 days to 1 yearYes
West VirginiaUp to 6 months$100 to $1,00015 to 45 daysPossible
WisconsinNone$150 to $3006 to 9 monthsNo
WyomingUp to 6 monthsUp to $75090 daysYes - if BAC .15 or above
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The above penalties are for first-time violations. In some states you can lose your driver’s license for a year and in Indiana you could lose it for two years.

Ignition interlock systems are another way many states are trying to eliminate repeat DUI or DWI offenders.

“The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found in a report released in January 2017 that traffic fatalities declined by 7 percent in states that mandate ignition interlocks for first-time alcohol-impaired offenders.”

Ignition interlocks are used to help guarantee a driver is not under the influence of alcohol when driving. The driver must breathe into a breathalyzer device hooked into the car’s ignition system. This verifies the driver is sober and can drive the vehicle.

Alcohol-Related Auto Fatalities

While we have mentioned costly insurance and the possibility of losing your driver’s license, we are now going to give you statistics on the most sobering reality of driving while under the influence of any drugs or alcohol.

“Based on data from the U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 10,511 people died in alcohol-impaired crashes in 2018.”

In 2018 alone, alcohol-related fatalities were 29 percent of all fatalities on the road. Driving under the influence of recreational drugs, prescribed drugs, or alcohol takes lives every year.

The FBI estimates that over a million arrests were made in 2018 for driving under the influence in the United States.

Data from the Insurance Information Institute shows fatalities from 1985-2018.

DUI-Related Fatalities 1985-2018
YearTotal Crash FatalitiesAlcohol-Related FatalitiesPercentage of Alcohol-Related Fatalities
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While there has been a steady decline in alcohol-related deaths, fatalities from alcohol still account for over 10,000 deaths a year on the road.

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Do you still have questions about your auto insurance? Check out some commonly asked questions below.

What happens if I lie about my driving history?

You may be tempted to not give all the truth regarding your driving history or other mandatory information needed to obtain a proper quote. This is called insurance fraud. Insurance fraud may sound like a harsh term for leaving out information on an application, but insurance fraud is taken very seriously.

Insurance fraud can range from staging an accident to obtain financial gain to leaving out vital information on an application or form.

If you are thinking about withholding information regarding your driving history, be aware that auto insurance companies do run motor vehicle reports and will find out what is on your driving record.

Can an auto insurance company deny you coverage?

While an auto insurance company can not deny you based on demographic information, for example, race or gender, they can deny coverage based on driving record or missing payments.

Is auto insurance mandatory in all states?

In all states, with the exception of New Hampshire and Virginia, you must have auto insurance on your vehicle. While you do not have to purchase auto insurance in those two states, they do have minimum required limits if you do decide to purchase. All 50 states have required minimum limits when you purchase auto insurance. Wondering “why is car insurance mandatory?” The shortest answer would be to protect drivers from any type of accident.

Minimum Liability Auto Insurance Requirements by State
StateInsurance RequiredLimits
AlabamaBI & PD liability25/50/25
AlaskaBI & PD liability50/100/25
ArizonaBI & PD liability25/50/15
ArkansasBI & PD liability, PIP25/50/25
CaliforniaBI & PD liability15/30/5
ColoradoBI & PD liability25/50/15
ConnecticutBI & PD liability, UM, UIM25/50/25
DelawareBI & PD liability, PIP25/50/10
D.C.BI & PD liability, UM25/50/10
FloridaPD liability, PIP10/20/10
GeorgiaBI & PD liability25/50/25
HawaiiBI & PD liability, PIP20/40/10
IdahoBI & PD liability25/50/15
IllinoisBI & PD liability, UM, UIM25/50/20
IndianaBI & PD liability25/50/25
IowaBI & PD liability20/40/15
KansasBI & PD liability, PIP25/50/25
KentuckyBI & PD liability, PIP, UM, UIM25/50/25
LouisianaBI & PD liability15/30/25
MaineBI & PD liability, UM, UIM, Medpay50/100/25
MarylandBI & PD Liability, PIP, UM, UIM30/60/15
MassachusettsBI & PD liability, PIP20/40/5
MichiganBI & PD liability, PIP20/40/10
MinnesotaBI & PD liability, PIP, UM, UIM30/60/10
MississippiBI & PD liability25/50/25
MissouriBI & PD liability, UM25/50/25
MontanaBI & PD liability25/50/20
NebraskaBI & PD liability, UM, UIM25/50/25
NevadaBI & PD liability25/50/20
New HampshireFR only25/50/25
New JerseyBI & PD liability, PIP, UM, UIM15/30/5
New MexicoBI & PD liability25/50/10
New YorkBI & PD liability, PIP, UM, UIM25/50/10
North CarolinaBI & PD liability, UM, UIM30/60/25
North DakotaBI & PD liability, PIP, UM, UIM25/50/25
OhioBI & PD liability25/50/25
OklahomaBI & PD liability25/50/25
OregonBI & PD liability, PIP, UM, UIM25/50/20
PennsylvaniaBI & PD liability, PIP15/30/5
Rhode IslandBI & PD liability25/50/25
South CarolinaBI & PD liability, UM25/50/25
South DakotaBI & PD liability, UM, UIM25/50/25
TennesseeBI & PD liability25/50/15
TexasBI & PD liability, PIP30/60/25
UtahBI & PD liability, PIP25/65/15
VermontBI & PD liability, UM, UIM25/50/10
VirginiaBI & PD liability, UM, UIM25/50/20
WashingtonBI & PD liability25/50/10
West VirginiaBI & PD liability, UM, UIM25/50/25
WisconsinBI & PD liability, UM, Medpay25/50/10
WyomingBI & PD liability25/50/20
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Each state has a minimum amount of liability insurance required.

Wanting to see if you can get lower auto insurance rates in spite of a DUI or DWI? Go ahead and enter your ZIP code here to start saving money today.

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