What is DWI ? (“Driving While Intoxicated”)

Posted on Jan 17, 2013


Did you know that over 1/2 a million people ask Google what is dwi, every single month!

This article explains what DWI is.  It also offers comparisons of what DWI is in Texas as opposed to 4 other States of the U.S.

DWI” stands for the crime of Driving While Intoxicated.  All states have individually written laws that describe specifically what DWI is defined as.  If you are curious about what DWI is for your specific state, you can always find a state’s individual penal code (and definition for DWI) online.  Just simply search  DWI  ________ (State you live in) and “penal code”, which should bring you to a primary source.

What is DWI, Find out in the LawyerDefend.me Blog!

What is DWI According to Our Great State of Texas?

If you were to actually go to your local law library in Texas (ours in is the Bexar County Court House on the 5th Floor), you would be able to find the following law defining what DWI is (it is in a copy of the Texas Penal Code, incase you really need to find a book on this).

“Sec. 49.04.  DRIVING WHILE INTOXICATED. (a) A person commits an offense if the person is intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle in a public place.

(2)  “Intoxicated” means:

(A)  not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body; or

(B)  having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more.”

This Law is simple.  If you are caught Drinking and Driving, an officer will pull you over.  The officer will arrest you and charge with with Driving While Intoxicated.  That means, the Officer is saying that you blew into a breath test and had .08 blood alcohol content (“BAC”) according to the test.  Or instead of taking the breath test, you might have had your blood drawn.  The two tests look for a measurement of alcohol content in your system.  More easily put, let’s quote Wikipedia:

“Blood alcohol content is usually expressed as a percentage of alcohol (generally in the sense of ethanol) in the blood. For instance, a BAC of 0.10 means that 0.10% (one tenth of one percent) of a person’s blood, by volume (usually, but in some countries by mass), is alcohol.”

The DWI law above also says this:  If you did not blow into a breath test, or have your blood taken, we can STILL prove you are intoxicated if we can show that you did not have your normal intelligence or normal coordination because YOU drank alcohol.

So, that said, there are two ways to define DWI.  One is that the person was driving while they had .08 BAC.  The other is essentially that you just weren’t as capable as usual because you drank.  These two things equally define DWI in Texas, just like there are multiple definitions of the word “beat” (violence or rhythm).  The prosecutors can choose which definition they will use to prove DWI.

If you have questions about this, comment below, and I promise to answer your DWI questions!!!

 

We spend the next few paragraphs comparing this above provided Texas DWI law to the laws of other States.  For the sake of organization, we have just used the first 4 States of the U.S. starting with “A”.  If this article is of use to others, we may add all of the other states to our blog down in the weeks to come.

What is DWI According to Alabama?

 Alabama: In SUMMARY:

  •  Having .08  or higher BAC OR
  • ” Under the influence of any substance which impairs the mental or physical faculties of such person to a degree which renders him or her incapable of safely driving
  • Punishment: up to 1 year in jail and a $2,100 fine

Compare to Texas DWI:  In Texas, DWI has the same BAC level of .08.  But, in Texas we do not define intoxication as having a substance in our bodies that would make us incapable of “safely driving”.  In Texas, we state that if a person has lost the normal use of their mental or physical abilities, due to alcohol, then they are intoxicated by definition.  How is it that Alabama Prosecutors prove someone was incapable of safely driving.  Isn’t this standard too vague to be enforced?

* In Alaska DWI is called DUI (Driving Under the Influence)

* In Texas, we have DUI, but it only applies to MINORS that are caught drinking with any amount of alcohol in their bodies.

What is DWI According to Alaska?

In Alaska, DWI is referred to as OUI in Anchorage and DUI in other parts.

Alaska DWI laws are as follows (in summation):

  •  “if, as determined by a chemical test taken within four hours after the alleged operating or driving, there is 0.08 percent or more by weight of alcohol in the person’s blood or 80 milligrams or more of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood, or if there is 0.08 grams or more of alcohol per 210 liters of the person’s breath.”
  • (In Other words, .08 BAC or higher)
Compare to Texas DWI Law:
  • In Texas, we call the crime a DWI, not a DUI or a OUI, unlike in Alaska
  • In Texas, we have two ways that prosecutors can try to prove you were intoxicated.  One way is just with a chemical test to prove you had a .08% BAC.  But the other way is to prove you lost the usual use of your mental or physical abilities because of Alcohol in your body.  In Alaska, there is only 1 way to prove DWI, and that is with the chemical test.  If there isn’t a chemical test, there can’t be proof of a DWI.  This would vastly favor Defendants of DWI if it were the case in Texas Law, as often there are no chemical tests provided.

What is DWI According to Arizona?

  • In Arizona DWI, is called DUI.
  • In Arizona, you actually have to serve Jail time (even if the jail time is only a day) when you get convicted of DWI.

The Arizona DUI Statute is as follows:

“1. While under the influence of intoxicating liquor, any drug, a vapor releasing substance containing a toxic substance or any combination of liquor, drugs or vapor releasing substances if the person is impaired to the slightest degree.

2. If the person has an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more within two hours of driving or being in actual physical control of the vehicle and the alcohol concentration results from alcohol consumed either before or while driving or being in actual physical control of the vehicle.”

  • In Arizona a person is more stringently punished if they have a .15 BAC or more.  In fact 30 days of jail time are mandatory if this BAC level is found.

 Compare to Texas Law:

  • In Texas, the DWI law is more lenient.   If we find a loss of the normal use of one’s mental faculties or physical faculties, we determine that is DWI.  But, because a police officer does not know the normal use of one’s abilities, inevitably, some measure of impairment can skate by on occasion.  In Arizona the wording is more stringent.
  • Secondly, in Texas we only convict a person for DWI, if they ACTUALLY are caught driving while intoxicated.  In Arizona, there is a two hour period before driving, where someone can be found guilty as well.  This means that sometimes in Texas, criminal defense lawyers argue that the blood alcohol spiked to above .08 AFTER the person was done driving.  Such defense could not work in Arizona where 2 hours before counts as well!!  This is very very interesting.
  • Also, in Texas, rarely is jail time required of a defendant on a first offense.

What is DWI in Arkansas?

  • In Arkansas, For a first time offender, the maximum punishment is a year in jail and $1000 in fines.
  • Arkansas defines DWI as a person with a .08 BAC or higher.
Compare to Texas DWI Law
  • In Texas, we have two ways to find DWI intoxicated.  In Arkansas, you can only prove DWI with chemical proof that the person had above 08% alcohol in their blood or breath.  This is just like the Alasksan law that requires the chemical analysis.  In Texas, just showing that a person has lost the normal use of their abilities because of intoxication can prove the crime without any chemical tests at all.  This part of the Texas law creates tons of disputes and an endless need for trial.  Whether a person has lost the normal use of their abilities is a subjective question, which is why so many people fight DWI charges in Texas.  If the law was more like that of Alaska and Arizona, maybe the amount of jury trials would decrease.

In Closing

When you ask the question “What is DWI?”  The answer is, it depends on what State you were in when you got charged with it.  Most states refer to DWI as DUI.  Most, if not all have one thing in common when it comes to the question, and that is .08 BAC or higher is by definition illegal intoxication and should be punished criminally.  All that said, do not drive in any state, or in any place with a .08 BAC on your breath or in your blood.  It is a crime, wherever you go in the U.S.

Resources

Drunk Driving Videos (depicting actual drunk driving)

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