DUI, DWI, and OUI: What is the Difference?

Some things could lead to an accident while driving. While some are factors you cannot control, others are within your sphere of influence. One factor that is within your control is drunk driving.

If you’re caught driving while impaired, you might get charged with a DUI, DWI, or OUI. While they sound similar, they are not the same. Our Charleston DUI defense attorney discusses DUI, DWI, and OUI in this article. We also share penalties for each of these offenses.

What Are DUI, DWI, and OUI?

Before explaining these terms, it is essential to point out what these acronyms stand for. DUI refers to driving under the influence, DWI refers to driving while intoxicated or impaired, and OUI refers to operating under the influence. Although they have different names, they all refer to driving or operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 32 people die daily in drunk driving accidents all over the United States. In 2020, over 11,000 people were killed in impaired driving accidents.

Alcohol has a relaxing effect on the body and can alter the mind. As a result, decisions made while under the influence of drugs or alcohol are unreliable. Driving needs the complete coordination of the senses, and drivers must always be sober to avoid accidents.

DUI, DWI, and OUI charges are often used interchangeably, but they broadly describe the same thing, so there’s no difference between them. However, some states use specific terms to describe the offense. Connecticut and Maine, for example, use OUI, while Arkansas and Maryland use DUI and DWI, respectively.

In each case, having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher implies that you were driving under the influence. Even when your BAC is below 0.08%, provided it is at least 0.05, it could be inferred that you are driving under the influence.

What Are the Penalties for DUI, DWI, and OUI?

Since the government takes every crime seriously, you’ll notice that the penalties for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol are stiff. The goal is to prevent drunk driving cases instead of punishing offenders.

The South Carolina Department of Public Safety points out that for every arrest made, there were at least 2,000 drunk driving trips in that period. Furthermore, even when special patrols are used, as many as 300 trips occur for each arrest. Going by these numbers, more people could be kept alive if fewer impaired drivers were behind the wheel.

Broadly, there are two possible penalties for anyone convicted of a DUI in South Carolina: fines and imprisonment. For a first-time offense, you could face up to $400 in fines, spend between 48 hours and 30 days in prison, and have your driver’s license suspended for up to six months.

Second offenders pay between $2,100 and $5,100 in fines, could spend up to a year in prison, or have their driver’s license suspended for up to a year. Third-time offenders will pay fines of at least $3,800 while they could face up to three years in prison. Additionally, their driver’s license could be suspended for up to three years.

Where a driver has up to three DUI charges within five years, they could have their driver’s license suspended for up to four years. In addition, you could pay a fine of $100 or be imprisoned for up to 30 days for having open liquor anywhere that is not the trunk of your car.

Drivers who cause significant bodily injury while under the influence could pay up to $10,000 in fines or 15 years in prison, while drivers whose negligence results in death could face up to $25,000 in fines and 25 years in prison.

Does a DUI Stay on Your Record and for How Long?

In most cases, a DUI conviction will stay on your record, but you can apply to have it struck off your driving record after ten years. You may also request to have it expunged from your history. A Charleston DUI defense attorney can explain how this process works to you.

Can I Refuse a Breathalyzer Test?

A breathalyzer is a device used to test for alcohol in your blood through your breath. Under South Carolina’s implied consent law, anyone driving in the state has consented to have their blood, urine, or breath tested should they be suspected of driving under the influence of any substance. Consequently, while you can refuse to take a breathalyzer test, you will also have your driver’s license suspended.

How Can a Charleston DUI Defense Attorney Help Me?

Whether you’re a first-time or repeat offender, you need to work with a Charleston DUI defense attorney to mitigate the damages a DUI charge could cause. However, you may not know how a DUI defense attorney can help your case and what to expect.

This section explains why you should hire a lawyer.

  • Negotiations

A DUI defense attorney will help you in negotiations. You may have to negotiate your sentence following a DUI charge, hence the need for a lawyer. Attorneys have a lot of experience with similar cases and know what to do. On the other hand, representing yourself when you’re up against experienced prosecutors could hurt your case.

  • Preparing Trial Strategy

Your attorney is responsible for developing a defense strategy for you. For example, they could decide that you should not take the stand or push for a plea bargain if they believe it is the best option. Having a lawyer on your side also means that you have someone on your side to take on the prosecutors. Their investigations can uncover evidence that exonerates you of all charges or lessens them.

  • Remove a DUI Record

There are situations where a lawyer may not prevent you from getting a jail term. Where this happens, the effects of that record could affect future prospects, including employment and credit.

However, with an experienced DUI defense attorney, you can get your record expunged. A lawyer understands the process and significantly increases your chances of success.

Hire a Charlotte DUI Defense Attorney for Expert Legal Representation

A DUI case is severe, with far-reaching consequences. In addition to the possibility of jail time and huge fines, a DUI conviction could affect your life in ways you can’t imagine. Therefore, you need the best lawyers to represent you.

A competent Charleston, South Carolina criminal defense attorney is an asset in a DUI case. In addition to helping you understand the charges you may be facing, we’ll also develop a strategy for your case. Give us a call to schedule a consultation.

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