DUI, DWI, DWAI — how are they different?


In Colorado, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a serious criminal offense. Police do not care if you are only slightly impaired; if you give them any reason to believe you are driving while intoxicated, you could be arrested and charged with either a DUI, DWI or DWAI. What is the difference between the three?

In some states, DUI and DWI are the same things. In others, a DUI is for cases involving alcohol, whereas a DWI is often in cases involving drugs — whether prescription or illegal. In Colorado, DUI and DWI mean the same thing, so the court simply files the charges as DUI. A DWAI is for cases where there is a mildly intoxicated person who will not face a DUI charge.

DUI basics

For law enforcement officers to arrest and charge you with DUI involving alcohol, they need to see you driving erratically, and determine that you have a blood-alcohol concentration of  at least .08% and are unable to pass field sobriety testing. For a DUI involving drugs, officers must witness traffic violations and see physical signs of impairment. Of course, DUI charges may also come following a car crash that police did not witness but where failed sobriety testing occurred.

DWAI basics

For law enforcement to arrest and charge you with DWAI, officers need to see at least one of the following:

  • A BAC above .05% and lower than .08%
  • Erratic behavior/driving
  • Signs of impairment — glossy eyes, unbalanced, inability to concentrate

It takes far less to charge someone with a DWAI because it is a lesser offense. Be that as it may, if charged with DWAI, you could still end up spending time behind bars, have to pay a fine and have restrictions put on your driving privileges.

Defend yourself

It doesn’t matter if you find yourself facing a DUI or DWAI, you can and should defend yourself even if you think it isn’t a big deal. Why? It may be a bigger deal than you think. The consequences if convicted can have a significant impact on your life, both in the short and long-term.

The good news is that you do not have to take on the criminal court system alone. With the right help in your corner, you can defend yourself and fight for the best outcome possible.