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Drunk driving is the most common crime in America. Like all legal matters, certain terminology and legal definitions can be confusing to non-lawyers. This segment of the website attempts to demystify these terms and phrases. While not comprehensive, this list covers most of the more commonly used words, terms, or phrases in this area of law.
|This generally is interpreted as an abbreviation for driving under the influence. By far, the most common impairing substance is ALCOHOL. However, many states also prohibit DUI DRUGS and DUI TOXIC VAPORS (sniffing or huffing paint fumes, butane, paint thinner, and similar chemicals).
|The next most common acronym is DWI. Depending on the state practice, this can be interpreted as an abbreviation for driving while intoxicated or driving while impaired. Like DUI, many states proscribe impaired (or intoxicated) driving as caused by other impairing substances, drugs, plants or chemical compounds.
|The next most common acronym for drunk driving is OUI. This stands for operating under the influence. The word “operating” is actually more encompassing and more accurate than driving because almost all states make it illegal to operate or be in actual physical control of a motor vehicle. This means that you can be sitting in your car on the side of the road with the engine running and the car in park, and asleep, yet still be charged with OUI (or DUI or DWI, for that matter, in most states). The states that have OUI as their acronym are Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.
|Another acronym for drunk driving is OWI, or operating while intoxicated. Similar to OUI, the operative word is operating. Wisconsin is the largest state using this acronym.
|OMVI (operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated) is an acronym used in Ohio from time to time, but they also use DUI.
|DUIL (driving under the influence of liquor) is used in a few states in case law.
|Oregon uses DUII (driving under the influence of an intoxicant).
|In two states, Colorado and New York, the acronym DWAI (driving while ability impaired) is a LESSER INCLUDED OFFENSE to DWI (or DUI). These lesser offenses offer the person less damage to their driver’s license and have certain benefits over pleading to the standard DUI/DWI offense.
|One state, Wyoming, uses DWUI (driving while under the influence).
|Finally, two other acronyms crop up in cases occasionally. DUBAL or UBAL is a type of DUI / DWI that signifies driving with an unlawful blood alcohol level. This applies only to cases in which the person arrested has given a blood, breath, or urine sample. Officers or court cases (or your attorney) may call this “per se DUI” or “per se DWI”. In short, this means it is an offense to merely have driven while having the prohibited amount of alcohol in your system regardless of whether the police officer gathers any traditional evidence of impairment.
|Same as DUBAL.
|Having an open container of alcohol inside your passenger compartment (as defined by each state’s laws), can be a separate crime (in most states). In other states, your sentence after conviction of DUI DWO OUI OWI may be enhanced (increased) by virtue of having an open container within reach, while driving. In some states, like Georgia, an open container can include any bone-dry, empty cans or bottles that are rolling around in the back or front of your passenger area.
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