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Difference between a DUI and a DWI

New York, NY |

I go a dui about ten years ago but I was wondering is it connsidered a misdemeanor or is a violation. I'm not sure what the difference is because I also got a dwi about 5 years ago and I know that is a miisdemeanor. I guess I'm wondering if here is any chance that a dui is only a infraction

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Attorney answers 7


The terms are interchangeable by regular people but it is DWI as a misdemeanor and DWAI is a violation. I expect your 1st was a DWAI as a 2nd DWI misdemeanor in 10 years is usually a felony.
You can check with the clerk of the court where the cases were.

Joseph A. Lo Piccolo, Esq.
Immediate Past President, Criminal Courts Bar Association 11'-12'
Hession Bekoff & Lo Piccolo
1103 Stewart Ave, Suite 200
Garden City, NY 11530
516-408-3666 (o) / 516-408-3833 (f)

I am a criminal defense attorney practicing in Nassau, Suffolk and New York City. The above information is not a substitution for a meeting whereas all potential legal issues can be discussed.


The distinction is with a DWAI, which is driving while ability impaired. A DWAI is a traffic infraction and not a crime. New York refers to the "crime" of driving while intoxicated commonly referred to as DWI. There is no real difference in the law between DWI and DUI. The real difference is as stated above between a DWI/DUI and DWAI.

I hope that this explanation helps.

Good Luck-

Note: For informational purposes only. Seek an in person consultation with an attorney to be informed about all of your rights.


Check in court to see what you plead to. There is an infraction.

I am a former federal and State prosecutor and now handle criminal defense and personal injury/civil rights cases. Feel free to check out my web site and contact me at (212) 577-9797 or via email at I was named to the Super Lawyers list as one of the top attorneys in New York for 2012. No more than 5 percent of the lawyers in the state are selected by Super Lawyers. The above answer is for informational purposes only and not meant as legal advice.


Different states charge differently. The terms are used interchangeably. Both violations of the law can be either misdemeanors or felonies depending upon the specific facts of the case.


DWI is the name afforded drunk driving in NYS, whereas a number of other states use DUI. They differ only insofar as a particular states' levels of BAC for intoxication and procedures (probably all states use the same BAC level because of federal pressure imposed when the legislation was passed). Typically a "DUI" is a misdemeanor, but you should check with an attorney from the state in which you were convicted.

If you found this "helpful" or "best answer," please click it with my appreciation. My response is for educational purposes and does not constitute legal advice nor creates an attorney client relationship which requires all the details and a personal conference.


This is one of the most common questions DUI/DWI attorneys hear, so I'm glad you asked.

In some states (such as my own Virginia), there is no difference between the two. In some other states and in the Federal courts, they are two distinct charges. Not only that, but the difference between them depends on the jurisdiction.

In some states, the difference is that DWI is more serious because it means a higher Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). In most states where there is a difference, however, Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) is the more serious charge because it involves evidence of a specific BAC, while Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is simply having consumed enough alcohol to have affected your ability to operate a vehicle.

Then there are states that call the same things DWAI or OUI. Oy....

Both charges tend to be misdemeanors unless you have committed several (in Virginia, it's three) within ten years, so most likely your DUI is a misdemeanor, but you really need to consult with a local DUI/DWI attorney.


Thank you for your question. I recently blogged about a similar issue on my website (

Good luck and thanks again for your question.

Brian Berkowitz is a DWI and Criminal Defense Attorney located in Rockland County, New York.

This answer does not in any way create or establish an attorney-client relationship and is intended solely to be generic legal information, not legal advice. Under no circumstances should the information obtained here be used to make decisions about the proper course of a legal matter.

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