What is DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE? What is DRIVING WHILE INTOXICATED? What is OPERATING WHILE IMPAIRED?
By: William C. Head, Atlanta DUI lawyer
What is driving under the influence? Drunk driving is a criminal offense that only came into existence with the advent of motor vehicles. Horseback riders were never charged with driving under the influence (DUI), driving while intoxicated (DWI), or operating while impaired (OWI). This crime simply did not exist until motorized cars and trucks began rumbling across America’s dirt and gravel roads and the manufacturers improved these horseless carriages to the point that greater speed meant accidents and fatalities. The first laws were enacted in 1910, by NY and NM.
Atlanta DUI lawyer William C. Head has provided you with the history of drunk driving in America at another location within this site.
The customary phrase used across America varies, depending on the region where you live. In Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, and New Mexico, driving while intoxicated is the phrase used, or the acronym DWI. Moving east of there, Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi all refer to drunken driving as driving under the influence (DUI), which is how well over 50% of all states classify their impaired driving statutes.
Three states on the Northeastern coast call this traffic offense operating under the influence (OUI), and the states with this acronym are Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Maine. Several Midwestern states call their drunk driving offense operating while impaired (OWI), such as Wisconsin, Michigan, and Iowa. A single state, Wyoming, calls their criminal intoxicated driving offense driving while under the influence (DWUI). Oregon stands alone with driving under the influence of intoxicants (DUII).
Several states have a lesser impaired driving statute, which has a different acronym. In both Colorado and New York, the offense is known as driving while ability impaired (DWAI), even though Colorado calls drunken driving DUI, and New York refers to driving impaired as DWI. Washington, DC calls the main criminal offense DWI, but their lesser offense OWI.
So, you can see that this mishmash of drunk driving acronyms takes you in circles, like a dog chasing his tail. All states have one thing in common: DUI penalties can negatively affect your life in hundreds of ways, starting with creating a permanent criminal history. In most states, a DUI conviction can limit job options, boost your insurance rates (car, life, and possibly homeowners), and possibly even affect your college and professional school choices.