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Depending on what state you are in, you’ve probably seen both the terms DWI (driving while intoxicated) and DUI (driving under the influence). Many people use the terms interchangeably, but do they actually mean the same thing in Texas?

In our state, the difference between DWI and DUI is subtle, but it does exist. It is a matter of age whether you are likely to be charged with a DWI or DUI. If you are over 21 and are pulled over after drinking and driving, and your blood alcohol concentration is above .08 percent, you will likely be charged with a DWI. But even if you are below .08, you can still face drunk driving charges because Texas is a zero-tolerance state for alcohol impairment on the road.

If you are under the age of 21, however, you can be charged with DUI if you are caught driving with any measurable amount of alcohol in your system, regardless of your BAC. This is true even if you do not appear impaired. Even if you are under 21, the arresting officer may still decide to charge you with a DWI.

The major difference between a DWI charge and a DUI charge is the severity of the penalties. While both DUI and DWI charges will lead to a suspension of your driver’s license, the suspension periods are much shorter for DUI than they are for DWI. For DUI, your license will be suspended for 60 days after the first offense, 90 days after the second offense and 180 days after the third offense. These periods can be increased if you are charged with any other alcohol-related offenses, such as open container in the vehicle. The penalties for DWI are much higher.

If you are charged with alcohol-related driving offenses in Austin, our law firm is prepared to assist you.

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