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Both DUI  and DWI are terms that refer to operating a motor vehicle while impaired by illegal drugs or alcohol. The biggest difference between the two is only in what the letters stand for. DWI is an acronym for Driving While Intoxicated/Impaired and DUI  stands for Driving Under the Influence. Throughout the United States, the laws vary regarding how a DUI  or DWI is dealt with.

In some states, the drunk driving laws differentiate between a DUI and a DWI, where the DUI is a lesser charge. In these states, a DUI usually signifies a lesser degree of intoxication, which is determined by a person's blood alcohol level at the time of arrest. Sometimes, states will allow the charges of a DWI to be reduced to a DUI with the help of a defense attorney.

In the case of a reduction from a DWI to a DUI , certain conditions typically must be met, such as the incident being a first offense, the defendant's display of remorse for the action, and a blood alcohol level that was not drastically over the legal limit. For example, New York State differentiates between DWI and DUI by establishing a blood alcohol level of .08 as the legal limit for DWI. If a person has a blood alcohol level of .07, the charges may be reduced to a DUI , which carries a lesser punishment.

Some states throughout the country have developed a zero tolerance policy, and consequently, they do not recognize any difference between a DUI and a DWI. As far as the laws of these states are concerned, any blood alcohol level over the specified limit is a crime that will be punished in the same manner. In some states, the terms DUI and DWI are used to indicate whether a person was driving impaired under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In this case, DUI is reserved for illegal drugs.