Select your state


driving under the influence (DUI)

DUI (driving under the influence), DWI (driving while intoxicated), and OWI (operating while intoxicated) are similar criminal offenses that involve the operation of a motor vehicle, electric vehicle, or sometimes an otherwise-powered vehicle—including boats, aircraft, and bicycles—by an operator who is under the influence of or intoxicated by alcohol or drugs. Per se (pronounced purr-say) intoxication is intoxication by definition—as defined in the state’s statutes by blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or more (.05 in Utah). And even if a person is not per se intoxicated, they may be intoxicated by not having the normal use of their mental or physical faculties (abilities), for example, and may be charged with a criminal offense.

In some contexts the terms DUI and DWI are used interchangeably, with some states using one term and other states using the other term to define what is essentially the same criminal offense. But in some states both criminal charges are available and there is a legal distinction between them.

For example, in some states with both criminal offenses, DUI is the criminal offense of operating a vehicle under the influence of prescription or recreational drugs, and DWI is the offense of operating a vehicle while intoxicated by alcohol. In some states DWI refers to per se intoxication when the driver’s BAC is above the threshold defined by statute—.08 (.05 in Utah)—and DUI is a criminal offense charged when the police officer believes the driver is under the influence of alcohol, despite the driver’s BAC being below the statutory threshold of .08. And in some states DUI is a separate offense for drivers under the legal age of drinking (21) who have some alcohol in their system, but less than a .08 BAC.

These and other similar alcohol-related operating offenses—including aggravated or enhanced forms of these offenses—vary from state to state in their definitions and potential punishments and are generally located in a state’s statutes—often in the penal code or criminal code.

In Texas, the terms DUI (Driving Under the Influence) and DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) represent different offenses. Texas law primarily uses the term DWI, which is defined as operating a motor vehicle in a public place while intoxicated, meaning 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 having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or more. A DUI charge in Texas, on the other hand, is typically reserved for drivers under the age of 21 who have any detectable amount of alcohol in their system, reflecting the state's zero-tolerance policy for underage drinking and driving. The penalties for DWI can include fines, jail time, driver's license suspension, and the installation of an ignition interlock device, among others, and can be more severe for repeat offenders or if the DWI involved aggravating factors such as an accident or high BAC. It's important to note that even if a person's BAC is below 0.08 percent, they can still be charged with DWI if their normal faculties are impaired due to alcohol or drugs.

Texas Statutes & Rules

Federal Statutes & Rules

23 U.S.C. § 164 - Minimum penalties for repeat offenders for driving while intoxicated or driving under the influence
This federal statute provides for the imposition of minimum penalties on individuals who are repeat offenders for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Under 23 U.S.C. § 164, states are required to enact and enforce laws that impose minimum penalties on individuals who have been convicted of a second or subsequent DUI or DWI offense. These penalties must include a suspension or revocation of the driver's license for at least one year, the impoundment or immobilization of the offender's vehicle, or the installation of an ignition interlock device on the offender's vehicle. States that fail to comply with these requirements may have a portion of their federal-aid highway funds withheld.

23 U.S.C. § 163 - Safety incentives to prevent operation of motor vehicles by intoxicated persons
This statute provides incentives for states to adopt and implement effective measures to reduce traffic safety problems resulting from individuals driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

23 U.S.C. § 163 encourages states to adopt and implement laws that effectively deter driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The statute provides grant incentives to states that have enacted and are enforcing laws requiring the use of ignition interlock devices for individuals convicted of DUI or DWI offenses. Additionally, the statute supports the adoption of open container laws and the enactment of high BAC laws with stricter penalties for those with a BAC significantly above the legal limit.

49 U.S.C. § 31310 - Disqualifications
This statute outlines the disqualification regulations for commercial driver's license (CDL) holders who commit DUI, DWI, or OWI offenses.

Under 49 U.S.C. § 31310, commercial drivers are subject to disqualification from operating commercial motor vehicles for certain offenses, including DUI, DWI, or OWI. The statute specifies that a CDL holder will be disqualified for a period of one year for a first offense of driving a commercial vehicle under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances. For a second offense, the disqualification is for life, with the possibility of reinstatement under certain conditions after 10 years. Additionally, the statute mandates disqualification for refusing to take an alcohol test as required by any state or jurisdiction under its implied consent laws or regulations.

49 C.F.R. Part 382 - Controlled Substances and Alcohol Use and Testing
This regulation sets forth the testing requirements for commercial motor vehicle drivers to prevent the operation of commercial vehicles by drivers who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

49 C.F.R. Part 382 establishes the guidelines for controlled substances and alcohol use and testing for commercial drivers. It requires employers to implement a drug and alcohol testing program for commercial drivers, which includes pre-employment testing, random testing, reasonable suspicion testing, post-accident testing, return-to-duty testing, and follow-up testing. The regulation aims to promote safety on public roads by ensuring that commercial drivers are not operating vehicles while impaired by alcohol or drugs.