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DUI vs. DWI in California: What's The Difference?

Updated: Dec 7, 2022

How California DUI Laws Work And How They Affect You

When discussing charges for driving while intoxicated, the terms DUI and DWI are sometimes used interchangeably. Some states might only impose one fee, not both. Other states might have both, but they might refer to the same thing, two things that are slightly different, or two things that carry two different sets of fees.

How do California's DUI laws operate? A DUI and a DWI are they two separate offenses? Do they each have a different punishment? Even so, does California acknowledge both? Let's examine the distinctions between DUI and DWI in California:


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DUI Vs. DWI In California

DWI and DUI generally mean "driving while intoxicated" and "driving under the influence", respectively. Both terms allude to a driver or motorist intoxicated and impaired while operating a vehicle. However, California uses the DUI acronym.


Any charges or legal actions that result from someone operating a vehicle while intoxicated will be referred to as a DUI. The courts, law enforcement, and DMV in the State of California will treat a DWI charge you receive while you are out of state the same way they would a DUI arrest.

That said, you must contact a Los Angeles DUI lawyer should you be arrested for it. A DWI lawyer in Los Angeles, CA will know their way around California DUI laws and how to get the best outcome for you.

How Do Authorities Prove A DUI Charge In California?


The authorities of the State of California will need to administer field sobriety tests to support their claims in court. This will assist them in demonstrating whether their suspicions of your intoxication are sufficient to support charges.

Remember that while you may have the option to decline the field tests, including the chemical ones, doing so will put you in trouble with the DMV, just like if your BAC was over .08%.

For underage DUI arrests, this BAC limit is at .01 or .02. Additionally, there's zero tolerance for underage drinking. So, even if there weren't any signs in the way you drive, talk, or interact with the authorities, it would be an automatic DUI charge in California.

No matter the case, you'll need to help of an experienced and prescreened DWI lawyer in Los Angeles.


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What Are The Most Common Types Of California Field Sobriety Tests?

Consequently, how do these field sobriety tests conducted? There are a few, including ones that involve the driver being tested in person and ones that rely on the officer's trained observations.


1. Observing How You Drive

This includes lane-straddling, weaving, delayed reactions, or other potentially dangerous driving behaviors. Therefore, the inquiry into a possible DUI usually begins with these driving symptoms.

2. A Person's Symptoms

Driving while intoxicated will result in slurred speech and possibly disorientation. This might be yet another tipoff leading to the charge.

3. Field Sobriety Assessments

Simple field tests like pronouncing the alphabet, walking a straight line, standing on one leg, or touching fingers to the nose are also telltale signs of a drunk driver. A charge may result from a failure at these.


Even sober people occasionally struggle on these tests. In addition, the results frequently rely on the officer's field assessment, which is another issue. If you suspect something is wrong with these sobriety tests, inform your DUI defense attorney in Los Angeles.


4. Saying Something That Can Be Used Against You

When you are pulled over, admitting to drinking a few beers or glasses of wine will be recorded in your police report. These are damning claims that might come back to bite you.


Before you say anything that might incriminate you, consult with a Los Angeles DWI lawyer

5. Blood Alcohol Content


This could take the form of any of the following:

  • Breath test of the Breathalyzer (the most common one)

  • Blood test

  • Urine test

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Find an experienced and trusted criminal defense attorney in California!

1000Attorneys can refer you to a prescreened Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer that can best handle your unique claim. Contact us through our 24/7 live chat (or complete our case details submission form) for a free initial consultation.

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