Difference Between OWI and DUI

It is rarely anyone’s intention to be hauled over after drinking, but lousy judgment may occasionally get the best of you and find you in serious legal trouble.


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When discussing drunk driving, OWI and DUI are sometimes used indiscriminately. This causes natural uncertainty regarding whether there is a distinction between these charges.

Key Takeaways

  1. OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) and DUI (Driving Under the Influence) both refer to operating a vehicle while impaired by alcohol or other substances. Still, the specific terminology and legal definitions vary by jurisdiction.
  2. Penalties for OWI and DUI offenses can include fines, license suspension, community service, and even imprisonment, depending on the severity of the offense and prior convictions.
  3. It is crucial never to drive while under the influence of alcohol or other impairing substances and always to designate a sober driver or use alternative transportation To avoid OWI or DUI charges.


OWI stands for “operating while intoxicated” and is a term used in some states in the United States to describe the offence of driving a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. DUI stands for “driving under the influence” and is a more common term used in the United States to describe the offence of driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.


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OWI is an abbreviation for operating while intoxicated.

In any instance, even if you don’t move anywhere and aren’t on the street, even if you’re in your driveway, yard, or the woods on privately owned property on a 3-wheeler,

it’s still an OWI if the engine is turned on and you’re in the driving seat.

DUI is one of the most often used abbreviations, and it is frequently and wrongly used in all elements of drunk driving. “Driving” is an important word in a DUI.

It is the offence of driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of liquor or substances to the point where the driver is incapacitated from operating a motorized transport securely.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonOWIDUI
Full formOperating while intoxicatedDriving under the influence
Year of introduction19991910
ApplicabilityMichiganAll around the world
Blood alcohol contentBelow .07%At/or above 0.08%
SeverityMore severeLess severe
Conviction on record2 years3-5 years

What is OWI?

In Michigan, the official legal abbreviation is OWI, although DUI is still being used as a broader relation to drunk driving, owing to its familiarity. If you were caught drunk driving in Michigan, the ticket you will obtain will say “OWI.”

OWI is more than just driving a vehicle or truck. “Operating” includes a boat, a bicycle, or a tricycle peddling on the sidewalk.

If you are high on drugs and climb on a child’s tricycle, peddling it and propelling itself forward, you can be punished with OWI. An OWI charge can be issued even if you are not in a public location.

There is an absolute zero tolerance regulation for individuals under 21, indicating you might be prosecuted with OWI if even a residue of alcohol is discovered in your system.

Chemical testing, including breath, blood, and urine tests, can be used to measure blood alcohol concentration.

In the past, the state government in Michigan changed the initials for drunk driving from OUIL and UBAL to OWI in 1999.

This was adopted so that the prosecutor may use the exact phrase, OWI, to refer to both legal arguments accessible to him.

Nonetheless, there were still insinuations in Michigan, and the legal limit was.10. Michigan’s statute was revised again in 2003.

This meant that you could (and still) be guilty of drunk driving in Michigan even if your breath test result was less than 0.07%

OWI can now be proven when a prosecution establishes, beyond just a possible suspicion, that you were either operating under the influence.

What is DUI?

DUI can refer to driving under the influence of alcohol or driving under the influence of drugs. The medicines might be OTC, pharmaceutical, or illicit.

When driving while intoxicated, your state may make it unlawful to get behind the wheel if you have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of at least 0.08 per cent.

Law enforcement officers in several jurisdictions can perform diagnostic tests on individuals to look for signs of intoxication.

If convicted of a DUI, the accused will receive a criminal term (such as voluntary work, a fine, or possibly jail) and a driver’s loss of license, based on the intensity of the incident and if it is an initial offence.

A lawyer may be able to assist the accused in regaining driving rights with conditions, such as utilizing an ignition interlock device (IID) or having restricted authorization to go to and from the workplace.

Although most DUIs are tried at the state level, drivers can face federal charges if they were driving while inebriated on government property,

such as nature reserves, forests, monuments, federal facilities, military facilities, or associated parking spaces.

If a military veteran is detected driving a vehicle while inebriated, they may face charges under the Uniform Rules of Military Justice.

DUI accusations are often regarded as misdemeanours, meaning your possible jail term is limited to one year.

However, in certain situations, these offences are classified as felonies, resulting in lengthy jail terms, crushing penalties, and worse collateral repercussions.

Main Differences Between OWI and DUI

1. OWI is an abbreviation for operating while intoxicated, while DUI is an abbreviation for driving under the influence.

2. OWI was introduced in 1999; DUI has been in practice since 1910.

3. OWI is legally recognized in Michigan, while DUI is a more popular worldwide term.

4. Blood alcohol content to get charged with OWI is below 0.07%; meanwhile, for DUI, it is a minimum of 0.08% and higher.

5. When compared together, OWI is more severe than DUI.

6. OWI charges stay on your record for two years, whereas DUI charges generally show on your record for the next 3-5 years.

Difference Between OWI and DUI
  1. https://search.proquest.com/openview/3099ef3d74575b10d1a1f64d1c96156b/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=2026554
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S027273580500142X
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