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Driving under the influence (DUI) and driving while intoxicated (DWI) are two of the most common charges drivers can face when they are pulled over by police. However, it’s not unusual to be confused regarding the difference between these charges. In the state of California, when a driver is operating their vehicle while impaired, it is generally referred to as a DUI. At the same time, there are certain aspects that can come into play that the prosecution can explore in a DUI case.

What is the Difference Between a DUI and DWI?

In general, “DUI” and “DWI” are frequently used interchangeably to define driving offenses that involve a driver being impaired, whether they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In some cases, it might even relate to a driver being under the influence of both substances. Essentially, whether the term “DUI” or “DWI” is used largely depends on the state in which the offense was committed. There are differences pertaining to impaired driving in all 50 states in the United States. As a result, each state uses its own terminology.

In California, however, a person can be charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, driving under the influence of drugs or even for driving while under the influence of a combination of both. On top of that, a driver can be charged with driving under the influence if he or she has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) or 0.08 percent of higher as per California Vehicle Code Section 23152(b) VC. In general, the majority of DUI cases that involve alcohol see the individual being charged with a DUI and driving with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or greater. That opens the door for the prosecution to tackle two different charges of criminal liability.

If a Los Angeles resident or a resident of any other city in California is found to have a 0.08 or higher BAC while driving or refuses to take a chemical test when legally asked to under suspicion of a DUI, the California DMV can take administrative action, such as in suspending the individual’s driver’s license. At the same time, if a person is convicted of these offenses, they will automatically have their license suspended as per California Vehicle Code Section 23152 VC.

How Does California Treat an Out of State DWI Conviction?

Once again, California uses the term DUI. However, there may be instances where individuals from other states have a conviction that is termed DWI for driving while impaired. If such a person is arrested for a DUI while in Los Angeles or anywhere else in California, they can face additional penalties. The prosecutor can obtain information on the individual from a national database. If the person has any DWI convictions within the past 10 years, they will be charged with priors in the new DUI case. The prosecutor would also then be responsible for proving the prior conviction.

In the event that the other state doesn’t include a statute that is similar to that of California, the defense attorney might be able to get a strike on the previous offense. If the defendant is convicted of a DUI and has previous convictions, he or she would be subject to jail time, considerable fines, suspension of their driver’s license for at least one year and required DUI class that may be lengthy. If the person has prior DUI convictions within the past 10 years, the penalties are even stricter and a fourth DUI conviction can be charged as a felony, which is much more serious and can result in prison time.

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