Question: What’s the difference between a DUI and a DWI in Maryland?

Answer: There’s actually quite a deal of difference. A DUI is the top count. That’s the big boy. That’s what the prosecutors are always kind of looking for. A DUI, there’s two kinds of DUI—there’s per se DUI and then there’s just a DUI, 21902-A2 and 21902-A1. The per se DUI basically means that you blew above a .08. You can’t get charged, well, you can’t get convicted of a per se DUI unless you have a number above a .08. The catchall would be the 21902-A1, which is the DUI—it’s the more severe of the DUI charges as opposed to the DWI. However, you don’t need the breath test to do it. If somebody fails the fields very badly or is very obviously under the influence of alcohol, you could still get that.

The punishment for a DUI, for driving under the influence, is generally on a first offense a year in jail, a $1,000 fine, and 12 points on your license. There is sort of an easier one for the state to prove, which is driving while impaired. So you definitely, if you’re looking at a DUI or a DWI, you’re going to see the difference between a DWI and DUI. A DWI, driving while impaired, if you think about it, if you’re only impaired by something, it’s sort of suggesting things to you, as opposed to if you’re under its influence, it’s completely making decisions for you.

So, I believe that’s why they do the wording the way they do. But the maximum punishment for DWI in Maryland on a first offense is 60 days in jail, $500 dollars and only eight points. So it’s treated much less, obviously, as far as jail time, where the DUI carries 10 more months of possible incarceration as a result. If it is a second offense or more of the DWI, then it does go up and carry a year in jail, and the DUI would go up to two years in jail if you picked up a second one.

So, there’s a major difference, and often that’s kind of what we’re working out with the state’s attorney’s office, is working out a plea to the lesser charges. The DWI, all they need to be able to prove is that you were impaired to some extent by alcohol and it impaired your driving. And so it’s a lot easier one for them to prove. That’s often what will happen if there’s a refusal or if the person did kind of OK on the field sobriety tests but still looked very impaired or sounded very impaired. So it is a far less charge. It does have some practical applications as well.

If you get a probation before a judgment on a DWI, then your CDL is not suspended as a result. If you get a PBJ on DUI, then your license, your CDL would be suspended for a year so, that’s a case where the punishment is so severe for a DUI but not that severe for a DWI. Also, as far as going to Canada even on vacation—if you’re currently on probation for a DUI, or if you’ve had a probation for a DUI within five years, you’re not allowed into Canada without applying for a special visa.

And a DWI, if you’re not currently on probation, you have no issues getting into Canada. So it’s a weird Canadian rule but that’s what they do. And that’s what they differentiate between the two. So, those are mainly the differences between the two. It’s a lot easier for the state to prove a DWI because they don’t need a breath test number to prove it, and the punishment is less because of that.


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