DUI vs DWI in NC What’s the Difference?

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Drunk driving and drugged driving have many acronyms in the courtroom. You may have heard these criminal offenses referred to as DWI, DUI, OWI, and even OUI. But, it is important to note that the legal differences between a DUI vs DWI vary from state to state. Continue reading to learn how North Carolina views Driving Under the Influence versus Driving While Intoxicated.


DWI stands for Driving While Impaired. DUI stands for Driving Under the Influence. Regardless of what term is used, being convicted of DWI indicates the driver operated a motor vehicle while impaired by an impairing substance. It is not necessary for the impairing substance to be alcohol, as some of the terms would indicate. For example, Driving While Intoxicated, Operating While Intoxicated, or Drunk Driving.
It is possible to get charged with DWI with an impairing substance other than alcohol. This includes but is not limited to, marijuana, cocaine, and prescription medications. The term Driving While Impaired, or DWI for short, includes all substances that a person may consume that might impair their ability to drive.

Which is worse, DUI or DWI?

Unfortunately, North Carolina does not make a distinction between a DWI and DUI. Before 1983, there was a separate charge of DUI that North Carolina considered a lower crime than DWI. But, the North Carolina’s Safe Roads Act of 1983 changed that. Everything now falls under a single offense–DWI.

DWI Sentencing in NC

There are many sentencing levels for a DWI charge. Yet, one thing is for certain; if you are convicted for a DWI, you will lose your license. The severity of DWI consequences will vary depending on your age, the number of offenses, and your license type.
DWI penalties can include:
  • Fines
  • License suspension
  • License revocation
  • Jail time
  • Community service
  • Higher car insurance rates
This list does not include any lawyer fees or court costs. The courts may also require you to attend an alcohol safety school or substance abuse assessment program. Not to mention, administrative penalties imposed by the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

Aiding and Abetting a DWI

In addition, North Carolina recognizes the charge of aiding and abetting a DWI. If you give your car keys to someone you know is impaired (and they drive) you could face a DWI conviction under the legal theory of aiding and abetting. While this is always punished as the lowest level (Level 5), it is a conviction for DWI and carries all the punishment of a Level 5 DWI.

Schedule 1 Controlled Substance DWI

You can also be convicted of a DWI if you have any amount of a schedule I controlled substance in your blood. This is a “per se” violation and the State does not even have to prove actual impairment. In North Carolina, Schedule I drugs include opiates, codeine methyl-bromide, heroin, and morphine. They also include many hallucinogenic substances like MDA, MDE, and MDEA. These are just a few of the better-known drugs; there are hundreds of compounds listed in Schedule I.
If any amount of these substances is found in your blood, the State may be able to convict you even without a showing of impairment. This is like the State proving that you have .08 of alcohol without proving actual impairment.
North Carolina is a Zero Tolerance state and has harsh punishments for DWI convictions. If you or someone you know has a DWI charge, then your next step is to contact an experienced attorney in NC DWI law.
Before you lose your license, call Dummit Fradin Attorneys at Law and schedule a free consultation.

I cannot say enough good things about my attorney. His knowledge of DWI case law is vast and his professionalism in court was unmatched. He was able to get my entire case dismissed before trial by showing that the officer who charged me did not follow proper arrest procedure. The judge called his motion to dismiss “brilliant”. I highly recommend him for any DWI-related matter.

DWI Client

Mike represented me on two DWI charges both were dismissed. DWI charges are hard to overcome if convicted you will lose your license, pay high fees, do community service, and your insurance will really be high. If you want to have a fighting chance call Mike he is very knowledgeable and helpful.

DWI Client

Mr. Dummit was a great help to me in an interlock case. He was very honest about the process and what to expect in different cases. He was very re-assuring when all the facts about my case were gathered and consulted with me numerous times before the actual case. He was always very prepared, was available at times that many attorneys would not be, and treated me with the utmost respect in all situations. His staff was very friendly and professional in all their dealings with me and I would recommend his law firm overwhelmingly to anyone that is in need. I can not express my appreciation enough to Mr. Dummit, Mr. Fradin and their whole firm.

Average Rating: 5 stars (based on 43 ratings)

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Your needs are our top priority. No matter what the case entails, we look forward to meeting and working with you to get through this matter as efficiently and effectively as possible. Stop by one of our locations today in Winston-Salem, Greensboro, or High Point, NC. We currently service the following counties: Forsyth County, Guilford County, Surry County, Stokes County, Yadkin County, Davie County, Davidson County, Randolph County, and Alamance County.

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1133 West First Street
Winston-Salem, NC 27101
(336) 485-4907
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820 North Elm Street
High Point, NC 27262
(336) 814-8118
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412 West Market Street
Greensboro, NC 27401
(336) 792-2522
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