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What's the difference between a DUI and a DWI?

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"DUI" stands for "driving under the influence" while "DWI stands for "driving while intoxicated." Both terms refer to the operation of a vehicle while operating under the influence of drugs or alcohol. You may have also heard the terms, "operating under the influence" ("OUI"), "operating while intoxicated" ("OWI"), or "driving while ability impaired" ("DWAI"), which are sometimes used to classify similar crimes in other jurisdictions.

In jurisdictions that issue these charges, "DUI" is typically the lesser charge because it only requires reasonable suspicion, whereas "DWI" requires proof of a certain level of blood alcohol concentration ("BAC") for arrest and conviction. Having separate charges allows other states to pursue multiple charges.

DUI Convictions in Arizona

While some states may have separate definitions for these phrases, Arizona does not. Instead, ARS 28-1381 provides that it is illegal to drive or be:

  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.

What evidence does it take to convict me of a DUI or DWI?

Typically, in Arizona, one of two tests are taken as evidence to determine if someone meets the threshold to be charged with a DUI.

First, a breathalyzer test can be used that will provide statistical information on BAC levels. Second, a blood sample can be analyzed for BAC.

An experienced criminal defense attorney can challenge either type of evidence in court by:

  • Challenging the collection of evidence samples: Did the officer violate your constitutional rights when taking the test? Were all departmental procedures and state laws followed?
  • Questioning the equipment or lab work: Was the breathalyzer or gas chromatograph calibrated correctly? How experienced are the lab technicians? Was the sample contaminated?

Can I refuse to take a BAC test?

You should know that Arizona law requires you to submit to give a breath, blood, or urine sample if pulled over and asked by a law enforcement officer who has reasonable belief that you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If you refuse to take submit to a test of your breath, blood or urine, you will face consequences, including losing your license for 12 months. Even though you can request your license be reinstated after 45 days, you will need to install an ignition interlock device in your car for the remainder of the time period. While there are many professional services who can install the interlock ignition, but it's expensive to do so and to pay to have it maintained for several months.

What happens if I get a DUI in Arizona but live in another state?

If you're an out of state driver who is convicted of or plead guilty to a DUI in Arizona, your home state and Department of Motor Vehicles will be notified of the conviction. In addition to facing penalties in Arizona for conviction of a DUI, such as paying thousands of dollars in fines, and even jail time, you may still lose your license in your home state.

What happens if I have an Arizona license but get a DUI or DWI on vacation?

If you are convicted of a DUI or DWI in another state, the conviction will follow you home. It will remain on your driving and criminal records. If you're convicted or plead guilty to another DUI in Arizona within seven years of the out of state DUI, you will face enhanced penalties, such as larger fines or additional jail time.


If you've been drinking alcohol or using drugs, don't get behind the wheel. It's not worth the legal consequences of getting a DUI or DWI, and it's definitely not worth putting yourself or other people on the road at risk. Instead, call a taxi, order an Uber or Lyft, or assign a designated driver to take you home.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. If you or a loved one is facing a DUI charge in Arizona, contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at West, Longenbaugh , and Zickerman. We will discuss your specific situation and what options are available for getting you the best help possible.

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West, Longenbaugh and Zickerman P.L.L.C.

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Tucson, AZ 85711

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