OWI vs DWI: Difference and Comparison

When we talk about OWI and DWI, we’re talking about intoxicated driving detention. The most common point of contention between the terms is that they are related but distinct.

What’s up with that? People are perplexed as the words are conveyed.

As a result, the purpose of this article is to clear up any confusion or ambiguity surrounding the terms. We’ll try to capture the key distinctions between the two terms.

Key Takeaways

  1. OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) refers to driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both; DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) specifically denotes driving under the influence of alcohol.
  2. Some states use OWI and DWI interchangeably, while others differentiate between them based on blood alcohol content levels or the presence of drugs.
  3. OWI and DWI offenses can result in severe legal penalties, including fines, license suspension, and even imprisonment.

OWI vs DWI

OWI stands for Operating While Intoxicated and describes the offence of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. DWI stands for Driving While Intoxicated and is used in other states to describe the same offence of driving a motor vehicle while under the influence.

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Operating While Intoxicated, or OWI, means that you can be detained even if you are not driving but are drunk while in your vehicle.

This is a state-specific legal violation act that could result in some serious consequences. An individual’s blood alcohol content is tested, and the results are analyzed to charge you with this offence.

DWI, or Driving While Intoxicated, on the other hand, means that you will be arrested if you are inebriated and driving.

The difference is that under OWI, the person may or may not drive the vehicle but must be operating it in some way, whereas under DWI, the person must be driving.

Comparison Table

Parameters of comparison OWIDWI
Meaning Operating While Intoxicated Driving While Intoxicated
Is it a more serious case?Yes No 
You can be arrested even if you aren’t driving?Yes No 
States Lowa, Indiana, etc New York, Alaska, etc
Is it possible to reduce the charge’s consequences?Yes No 

What is OWI?

Operating While Intoxicated, or OWI, refers to the fact that you can be arrested even if you aren’t driving but are in your vehicle and are inebriated.

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This is a state-specific legal violation act that could result in serious consequences. To charge you with this crime, your blood alcohol content is tested, and the results are analyzed.

The main distinction is in the states’ jurisdiction. The law’s significance appears to be similar, but its application differs.

If an individual is arrested for OWI, it can be concluded that even if you are not on the run and are simply sitting in the parking lot, you can be arrested for the offence.

The consequences are quite severe; OWI is more severe than DWI because it encompasses a larger scenario, whereas DWI is limited to the action of driving alone.

In some states, if you are charged with OWI, you can ask for the charge to be reduced to DWI. OWI is used in states such as Indiana, Lowa, and others.

So this is also a distinction; it means that different states have adopted either of the terms depending on their jurisdiction.

And it is on this basis that punishments are meted out. You could be arrested, fined a lot of money, put behind bars, and so on.

It also varies from place to place.

What is DWI?

DWI, or Driving While Intoxicated, on the other hand, means that if you are inebriated while driving, you will be arrested.

The difference is that a person charged with OWI may or may not drive the vehicle but must operate it in some way, whereas a person charged with DWI must drive the vehicle.

To be arrested for DWI, you must have a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent. The percentage varies from one state to the next.

As a result, you must be aware of the exact percentage for the state to which you belong. Aside from that, it is regarded as a serious offence with severe consequences.

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You may be arrested as well.

In addition, in comparison to OWI, DWI has a lower impact because it only applies to driving. States such as New York, Alaska, and others have accepted DWI, and you will be charged with DWI in these states.

In these states, OWI would not be mentioned. So those are the main distinctions between the two.

Overall, they address the main issue of drunk driving and regard it as a crime.

Also, the charges keep piling up, which means that if you are arrested for the same in a second time, the consequences will be much harsher than if you were arrested the first time.

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Main Differences Between OWI and DWI

  1. OWI is considered to be more serious than DWI.
  2. Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) and Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) are two different types of drunk driving offences.
  3. You can be arrested for OWI even if you are not driving, but this is not the case with DWI.
  4. OWI is used in Indiana, Louisiana, and other states, whereas DWI is used in Alaska, New York, and other states.
  5. If you are charged with OWI, you may be able to have the charge reduced to DWI.
Difference Between OWI and DWI
References
  1. https://trid.trb.org/view/1214723
  2. https://rosap.ntl.bts.gov/view/dot/1471

Last Updated : 13 July, 2023

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