DUI vs. DWI: What’s the Legal Difference?

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Have you recently been pulled over and tested for drinking and driving in Houston? Were you charged or arrested for being under the influence while driving?

Wondering what the difference is between a DWI and a DUI?

Despite common belief, there are legal differences between DUI and DWI offenses. And because of the differences, it’s all the more reason to get informed.

In this article, we’re going to hash out the DUI vs DWI debate.

Understand the differences and know what to expect if you or someone you know is charged with a DUI or DWI.

What’s the Difference Between DUI and DWI in Texas?

People often lump DUI and DWI together. They think that both these acronyms stand for drunk driving.

It’s true that DUI and DWI both refer to the when someone drives a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol. But they have different meanings, and the definitions often vary state-by-state.


Under Texas law, DUI stands for “driving under the influence”. It applies to people under the age of 21 who are pulled over with alcohol in their system.

It is illegal to drive with any detectable traces of alcohol or drugs in Texas. Zero-Tolerance states like Texas view DUI vs DWI both as crimes – no exception.

So, it doesn’t matter how little alcohol is in a person’s system. Any person under the age of 21 who has any trace of drugs or alcohol in their system can be charged with a DUI.


Under Texas law, DWI stands for “driving while intoxicated”. Anyone over the age of 21 caught intoxicated can receive a DWI charge.

Anyone with a B.A.C of 0.08 or higher is, under Texas law, legally intoxicated. With that said, anyone under the age of 21 who is legally intoxicated can receive a DWI charge.

What are the Punishments for DUI vs DWI Offenses?

Texas classifies DUI and DWI as different crimes. And because of this, the punishments are different, as well.

DUI and DWI offenders can expect fines that range anywhere between $500 to $10,000. The court may suspend their licenses and order them to community service. The court can also sentence them to jail time.

Punishments depend on age and whether the person is a repeat offender. In any case, the punishments are serious in Texas.

Punishments for Minors

A minor on their 3rd DUI offense can have their license suspended for up to 180 days, for example. A minor on their first offense can receive a fine up to $500. The court may also order them to up to 12 hours of alcohol education classes.

Minors can also receive non-driving offenses. For example, they can receive public intoxication or underage drinking charges.

Punishments for Adults

1st-time offenders can receive a fine worth up to $2,000 and a license suspension of up to 2 years. Courts sometimes sentence 1st-time offenders to jail time depending on the severity.

Adults on their 2nd or 3rd offenses can expect fines that range anywhere between $4,000 and $10,000. With that said, they can receive license suspensions of up to 2 years. They are also susceptible to alcohol education, community service, and jail time.

The punishments worsen if the offender is driving with an open container or with a child in the vehicle. The punishments also worsen if the person causes serious bodily injury to someone else.

What Should You Do If You’re Charged with a DUI or DWI?

DUI and DWI offenses are serious crimes in the state of Texas. The punishments are not the same for everybody, but they can be serious.

So, it’s important to call your local DUI vs DWI attorney as soon as possible.

Contact the law firm of Vinas & Graham, PLLC today if you’re charged with a DUI or DWI in or around Houston.

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