Understanding the differences between DUI, DWI and OUI charges

There are a number of different charges that can be brought against you if you operate a motor vehicle after you have used drugs or alcohol in Massachusetts or New Hampshire. Regardless of which offense you are charged with, you will need an experienced drunk driving defense attorney to help you defend yourself.

There are three primary charges that can be filed against you, and it is important to know and understand the similarities and the differences of each one.

DUI. Driving Under the Influence. If you’re charged with a first offense of DUI, then it will be categorized as an Operating Under the Influence (OUI) offense and can result in harsh penalties. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, most drivers will not receive maximum fines and punishment, but even lesser penalties mean thousands of dollars in fines. To be charged with a DUI, a person must exceed the minimum threshold of .08% blood alcohol level (BAC). Upon conviction, a first-time offender can expect to receive a license suspension of anywhere from 45 to 90 days, one year of probation, and mandatory participation in a 16-week drug and alcohol education program.

OUI. Operating Under the Influence. The standard to be charged with OUI is different than being charged with DUI. With a DUI, you must actually be operating a vehicle while you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. For an OUI, you can be charged if the keys are in the ignition, even if you pulled off to the side of the road or are caught behind the wheel while not in motion but still under the influence. First-time OUI’s are case specific, meaning that penalties and possible convictions are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. While there are no mandatory minimums for jail time, a conviction can bring a license suspension of 45 to 90 days. That increases if a driver refuses to submit to testing under implied consent laws, with suspensions rising to up to 180 days. Fines vary widely but will fall between $500 and $5000 most of the time. Court costs and the costs of completing the sentence will add considerable amounts as well.

DWI. Driving While Intoxicated. This is essentially the same charge as DUI. Sometimes you will see a DUI charge referred to as a DWI. It carries the same penalties as a DUI. In New Hampshire, DWI is related to alcohol, and DUI is related to drugs as the main distinguishing feature between the two charges.

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