The Difference Between DWI and DUI

the difference between dui and dwi

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and fact-checked by an addiction expert.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and fact-checked by an addiction expert.

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What’s the difference between DUI vs DWI? Both terms are used by the law, depending on the state. Is DUI and DWI the same thing?

In this resource, we discuss the difference between Driving Under The Influence (DUI) and Driving While Intoxicated (DWI).

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The Difference Between A DUI And DWI In Arizona

Under Revised Statute #28-1381 of Arizona, any officer can pull you over or arrest you for driving when impaired. 

It can be an upsetting experience, especially if you are unaware of the accusation and how you can fight it in front of the court.

DUI stands for Driving Under The Influence of drugs or alcohol, whereas DWI stands for Driving While Intoxicated, which is limited to alcohol only.

Both of these offenses are criminal charges and hold severe penalties. They can alter the course of your life and will be recorded in your permanent criminal record.

A DWI in Arizona requires a proper procedure to be followed to check the alcohol levels of the individual. Law requires the individual to have a considerable amount of alcohol within two hours of driving. 

The range of blood alcohol levels varies from 0.08-0.20, under which the individual will be eligible for conviction.

On the contrary, a DUI requires no such specific blood alcohol levels. An individual can be convicted for levels below 0.08 and be issued a DUI for marijuana, illegal drugs, or even prescription drugs. 

The officer on site can write details about your behavior or make other realistic claims that might pose you as a danger to yourself and others.

Besides physical evidence of possession or being under the influence, behaviors such as abnormal acting and risky choices can also ensure charges against you.

DUI Vs. DWI In Arizona: Major Categories

The severity of a DUI or DWI conviction penalty depends entirely on how repeated the behavior is or how much supposed damage it could cause. There are three major categories;

First-time Drunk Driving Arrest in Arizona

If you are caught by an officer operating a car under the influence, with a blood alcohol content of 0.08-0.14, the officer can rightfully arrest you. In the absence of a lawyer representing you, you can face;

  • Ten days in jail.
  • You will have to pay $1250 out of your pocket.
  • You will be required by law to attend alcohol education classes.
  • Law requires you to install an ignition interlock in your vehicle.

With a lawyer present, you might be able to fight some claims and reduce your penalties.

Extreme DUI in Arizona

Driving under the influence with a blood alcohol content of 0.15 or above will ensure that you are arrested for an Extreme DUI. Even if it is your first offense, the officer will be required to arrest and charge you with an Extreme DUI if you have such a high level.

As required by law;

  • You will have to spend thirty days in jail.
  • You will have to pay a fine of $2500.
  • You will have to attend mandatory alcohol education classes.
  • You will be required to install an ignition interlock onto your vehicle to be able to operate it.

This charge can be quite frustrating and overwhelming to hear. With a lawyer present, you can fight some claims or try to reduce jail time through negotiations with the state lawyer.

Super Extreme DUI in Arizona

A Super Extreme DUI can also be charged in Arizona if the individual is found to have a blood alcohol content of 0.20 or above. This is considered a serious offense and can result in severe punishments.

The situation can worsen if you travel with passengers, underage children, or display abnormal and unruly behavior. The officer might notice your erratic behavior and add that to the report, which will further increase the severity of the charges.

You will be required by law to;

  • Spend forty-five days in jail.
  • Pay a fine of $3200 out of pocket.
  • And install an ignition interlock for as long as the court decides on any vehicle you operate.

Key Differences Between A DUI And A DWI In Arizona

The critical difference between the two is the type and severity of the influence. A DUI can be charged if an individual drives under the influence of drugs, prescription medication, or alcohol. It requires no accurate blood alcohol content to count as an offense and can be registered solely based on the individual’s behavior.

However, a DWI can only be charged when an individual is caught driving while intoxicated by alcohol. It requires a breathalyzer test to be taken, showing a blood alcohol content of 0.08-0.15. If drunken behavior is displayed, it will be reported and used to strengthen the case of DWI.

The Growing Concern Of DUI Vs. DWI

According to the FBI, an estimated 1,412,223 arrests were made for driving under the influence in 2010. An estimated 1,117,852 arrests were made in 2014 alone for individuals driving while under the influence in the US. This alone made up for 10% of all arrests in the country.

The arrests fell drastically in a few years due to the severe penalties and strict implementation. Despite the measures being taken, in 2017, 30% of Arizona car fatalities were still linked to alcohol consumption. Showing that despite the severe punishments, the trend of driving while under the influence has continued.

Arizona DUI Vs. DWI: Why It Does Matter

Besides the consequences of facing jail time, fulfilling court-mandated courses, and paying fines, the individual will also have a permanent criminal record file open for them. Moreover, their car insurance records will also show their vehicle’s DUI or DWI charge.

These charges can affect the insurance rate for up to 5 years before removing it, taking away any chances of discounts, ease, or even taking out the insurance.

Moreover, in case of any accident where your loved one sitting in the passenger seat or a stranger is harmed without cause, the guilt alone will be enough to leave any individual in distress.


[1] Arizona State Legislature

[2] Crime In The United States

[3] Arizona DUI Statistics

[4] How Arizona Compares to Other States

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Dane Perikly

DUI Education and Recovery Writer

Dane is the Director of Virtual services at Cornerstone. He also contributes factual guides on DUI education so that you can understand all there is to know about DUI laws, DUI education, getting through the process of dealing with a DUI, and getting back on the road.
lionel estrada lisac clinical director

Clinical Reviewer, Clinical Director

Lionel, a Licensed Independent Substance Abuse Counselor (LISAC) with over 4 years at Cornerstone. Passionate about helping those with addiction, he has trained as an EMDR therapist  adopting a trauma-informed approach to treat the underlying issues of addiction, providing an empathetic approach to addiction.

Articles written prior to August 2023 were also clinically reviewed by Karen Williams, LPC 

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