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What is the difference between a DUI and DWAI?

On Behalf of | Sep 24, 2021 | DUI, DWAI

Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI) and Driving Under the Influence (DUI) may sound like different names for the same thing, but there are slight differences between these two offenses.

DWAI versus DUI

A blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or higher is the legal limit for driving under the influence of alcohol. However, you are not necessarily in the clear just because you are not charged with a DUI. A BAC over .05% is still considered impaired based on Colorado limitations for a DWAI.

Penalties vary between these charges. A DWAI is generally considered the less serious of the two, but a first offense can still result in points on your driver’s license and fines.

In either situation, officers must have probable cause for pulling you over. Common reasons for a traffic stop in these cases include weaving across lanes and speeding.

How is a DWAI measured?

An important distinction in cases where the BAC is between .05% and .08% is that this number alone does not warrant a DWAI charge. You must also have exhibited impaired driving. However, even the slightest degree of impairment when operating a motor vehicle can fall within this classification.

In cases where drugs are the suspected intoxicant, specialized field sobriety tests are sometimes conducted in lieu of measuring blood alcohol levels. These include balance and convergence tests meant to measure the level of impairment.

Despite their widespread use, many of these tests and observations are subjective, at best. They often still hold up in court, however, if left unchallenged.


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