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Is a DWI the Same As a DUI in California?

A DWI stands for “driving while impaired.” The term DUI stands for “driving under the influence.” These terms mean essentially the same thing. California generally uses DUI to indicate a charge for driving under the influence of alcohol. Other states use different terms. However, there is more than one way to get a DUI in California, including a per se DUI, drug DUI, and other types of DUIs.

If you end up under arrest in Berkeley, Oakland, or other parts of the East Bay, the first step you should take is to call an experienced drunk driving lawyer who understands the different types of DUI charges and how to build a strong defense to keep you out of jail and keep your record clear. A top East Bay DUI defense lawyer will also be able to handle the DMV hearing so your license will not be automatically suspended after an arrest. Contact East Bay DUI defense attorney Lynn Gorelick today.

What is the Difference Between a DUI, OUI, DWI, and DWAI?

Different states use different legal terms to refer to a drunk driving arrest. In California, the most common term is DUI. Other common ways to refer to an impaired driving charge include: 

  • Driving while intoxicated (DWI)
  • Operating while intoxicated (or impaired) (OWI)
  • Operating under the influence (OUI)
  • Driving under the influence of intoxicants (DUII)
  • Driving while ability impaired (DWAI)
  • Operating a motor vehicle while under the influence (OMVI)

Different DUI Charges in California

Drunk driving is a criminal charge in California but there are different types of vehicle code offenses all related to impaired driving. California vehicle code offenses include: 

Under California Vehicle Code Section 23152(b): It is unlawful for a person who has 0.08 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood to drive a vehicle. This is known as a per se DUI. Even if a driver is driving the speed limit and not breaking any traffic laws, they can get a DUI if their blood alcohol content (BAC) is over a certain limit. 

Under California Vehicle Code Section 23152(a): It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage to drive a vehicle. For this statue, the prosecutor does not need to prove the driver's BAC was over the limit. This can involve a case where the prosecutor does not have the driver's chemical test results, the driver's BAC is just under the limit, or the driver is suspected of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol and drugs. 

Can You Get a DUI With a Lower BAC?

A per se DUI involves a driver with a BAC of 0.08% or higher. However, other DUI charges can involve a BAC below the per se limit. Commercial drivers can be arrested for a CDL DUI with a BAC of 0.04% or higher, which is half the standard limit. Underage drivers (under-21) are not supposed to have access to alcohol and any BAC of 0.01% or higher may be enough to have their license suspended with an under-21 DUI

Drug DUIs or a DUI involving drugs and alcohol do not require a minimum level of alcohol because the effects of the drugs or combination of drugs and alcohol may be enough to impair the driver's ability. However, without a chemical test that shows the driver was under the influence of drugs, the police officer's own belief or impression may be enough to result in a DUI arrest. This is why it is important to talk to an attorney about your legal defense options before simply pleading guilty. 

DUI Defense Strategies for East Bay Drivers 

Not all DUI penalties are equal. A wet-reckless conviction does not carry the same penalties and consequences as a DUI. A wet-reckless charge is a type of plea agreement offense that your attorney can negotiate to reduce the penalties of getting arrested after drinking and driving. However, your attorney may be able to build a stronger defense so the prosecutor drops the charges altogether, leaving you without a criminal conviction on your record. 

East Bay attorney Lynn Gorelick has more than 38 years of DUI defense experience and understands how to approach each case for the greatest chance for success. Representing individuals in Alameda County, Lynn Gorelick is familiar with the local DUI laws, police officers, and the prosecutors involved. 

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