What Does DUI Mean? (Driving Under the Influence)

Aly J. Yale
Written byAly J. Yale
Aly J. Yale
Aly J. Yale
  • National Association of Real Estate Editors member

  • Bylines include Forbes, Bankrate, and CBS News

Aly is a reporter specializing in real estate, mortgages, and personal finance. You can find her work in Hearst newspapers and numerous financial publications.

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Courtney Mikulski
Courtney MikulskiSenior Editor, Auto
  • 3+ years producing insurance and personal finance content

  • Main architect of the Insurify Quality Score

Courtney’s deep personal finance knowledge extends beyond insurance to credit cards, consumer lending, and banking. She thrives on creating actionable content.

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Updated February 6, 2023

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A DUI — sometimes called a DWI — is a legal charge for driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated/impaired. DUI charges indicate a driver has a blood alcohol content level above the legal limit. These charges can also refer to driving under the influence of recreational or prescription drugs.

Driving under the influence is extremely dangerous. Someone is killed in a drunk-driving accident every 45 minutes in the U.S., and around 11,000 people die in these accidents annually.[1]

What “driving under the influence” means

Driving under the influence means a person is operating a vehicle while intoxicated or impaired by alcohol, a drug, or an illegal substance. To fully understand the meaning of this, it’s important to examine what exactly “operating a vehicle” means, how laws define “under the influence,” and what drugs and substances fall under that purview.

Operating a vehicle

The exact wording of DUI laws varies state by state, but to “operate a vehicle” means to be in physical control of a vehicle — or, as Texas law explains it, “a device in, on, or by which a person or property is or may be transported or drawn on a highway” — in a public place.

Many times, “operating a vehicle” also includes driving a boat, an airplane, or another mode of transportation. Some state laws separate DUI charges by mode of transportation. For example, boating while intoxicated, or BWI, is a separate criminal offense in Texas.

Under the influence

“Under the influence” means that recent use of alcohol or recreational or prescription drugs has impaired a driver’s normal faculties. In Florida, this even includes nitrous oxide, and in Illinois, medical marijuana qualifies.

In terms of alcohol, every state sets a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level that amounts to being “under the influence of alcohol” in that jurisdiction. Any person found to have a BAC of that level or higher is considered legally intoxicated. In most states, the BAC limit is 0.08.[2]

DUI/DWI laws by state

Every state has its own laws regarding driving under the influence, and they also have different names for these charges. Most often, DUI or DWI is used, but in some states, it may also be OVI (operating a vehicle impaired), OWI (operating while intoxicated), or OMVI (operating a motor vehicle impaired).

Here’s a look at how the laws break down by state and what each state calls it.

StateWhat It’s CalledBAC Limit
AlabamaDUI

0.08 for drivers 21 and older

0.02 for bus drivers and drivers younger than 21

0.04 for commercial drivers

AlaskaDUI

0.08 for drivers 21 and older

0.02 for drivers younger than 21

0.05 for commercial drivers

ArizonaDUI

0.08 for drivers 21 and older

0.02 for drivers younger than 21

0.05 for commercial drivers

ArkansasDWI, BWI, DUI, BUI

0.08 for drivers 21 and older

0.02 for drivers younger than 21

CaliforniaDUI

0.08 for drivers 21 and older

0.01 for drivers younger than 21

0.04 for commercial and taxi/Uber drivers

ColoradoDUI, DWAI

0.08 for drivers 21 and older

0.02 for drivers younger than 21

ConnecticutDUI

0.08 for drivers 21 and older

0.02 for drivers younger than 21

0.04 for commercial drivers

DelawareDUI

0.08 for drivers 21 and older

0.02 for drivers younger than 21

FloridaDUI

0.08 for drivers 21 and older

0.02 for drivers younger than 21

GeorgiaDUI

0.08 for drivers 21 and older

0.02 for drivers younger than 21

HawaiiDUI

0.08 for drivers 21 and older

0.00 for drivers younger than 21*

IdahoDUI

0.08 for drivers 21 and older

0.02 for drivers younger than 21

IllinoisDUI

0.08 for drivers 21 and older

0.00 for drivers younger than 21*

0.04 for commercial drivers

IndianaDUI

0.08 for drivers 21 and older

0.02 for drivers younger than 21

IowaOWI

0.08 for drivers 21 and older

0.02 for drivers younger than 21

KansasDUI

0.08 for drivers 21 and older

0.02 for drivers younger than 21

KentuckyDUI

0.08 for drivers 21 and older

0.02 for drivers younger than 21

LouisianaDUI

0.08 for drivers 21 and older

0.02 for drivers younger than 21

MaineOUI

0.08 for drivers 21 and older

0.00 for drivers younger than 21*

MarylandDUI, DWI

0.08 for drivers 21 and older

0.00 for drivers younger than 21*

MassachusettsDUI, OUI

0.08 for drivers 21 and older

0.02 for drivers younger than 21

MichiganOWI

0.08 for drivers 21 and older

0.02 for drivers younger than 21

MinnesotaDWI

0.08 for drivers 21 and older

0.00 for drivers younger than 21*

MississippiDUI

0.08 for drivers 21 and older

0.02 for drivers younger than 21

0.04 for commercial drivers

MissouriDWI

0.08 for drivers 21 and older

0.02 for drivers younger than 21

MontanaDUI

0.08 for drivers 21 and older

0.02 for drivers younger than 21

0.04 for commercial drivers

NebraskaDUI

0.08 for drivers 21 and older

0.02 for drivers younger than 21

NevadaDUI

0.08 for drivers 21 and older

0.02 for drivers younger than 21

0.04 for commercial drivers

New HampshireDUI, OUI

0.08 for drivers 21 and older

0.02 for drivers younger than 21

0.02 for commercial drivers

New JerseyDWI

0.08 for drivers 21 and older

0.00 for drivers younger than 21*

New MexicoDWI

0.08 for drivers 21 and older

0.02 for drivers younger than 21

0.04 for commercial drivers

New YorkDWI

0.08 for drivers 21 and older

0.02 for drivers younger than 21

0.04 for commercial drivers

North CarolinaDWI

0.08 for drivers 21 and older

0.02 for drivers younger than 21

0.04 for commercial drivers

North DakotaDUI

0.08 for drivers 21 and older

0.02 for drivers younger than 21

0.04 for commercial drivers

OhioOVI

0.08 for drivers 21 and older

0.02 for drivers younger than 21

0.04 for commercial drivers

OklahomaDUI

0.08 for drivers 21 and older

0.02 for drivers younger than 21

OregonDUI

0.08 for drivers 21 and older

0.00 for drivers younger than 21*

PennsylvaniaDUI

0.08 for drivers 21 and older

0.02 for drivers younger than 21

Rhode IslandDUI

0.08 for drivers 21 and older

0.02 for drivers younger than 21

South CarolinaDUI

0.08 for drivers 21 and older

0.02 for drivers younger than 21

South DakotaDUI

0.08 for drivers 21 and older

0.02 for drivers younger than 21

TennesseeDUI

0.08 for drivers 21 and older

0.02 for drivers younger than 21

TexasDWI

0.08 for drivers 21 and older

0.00 for drivers younger than 21*

UtahDUI

0.05 for drivers 21 and older

0.00 for drivers younger than 21*

VermontDUI

0.08 for drivers 21 and older

0.02 for bus drivers

0.04 for commercial drivers

0.02 for drivers younger than 21

VirginiaDUI

0.08 for drivers 21 and older

0.02 for drivers younger than 21

WashingtonDUI

0.08 for drivers 21 and older

0.02 for drivers younger than 21

0.04 for commercial drivers

Washington, D.C.DWI, DUI

0.07 for drivers 21 and older (DUI)

0.08 for drivers 21 and older (DWI)

0.00 for drivers younger than21

West VirginiaDUI

0.08 for drivers 21 and older

0.02 for drivers younger than 21

WisconsinOWI

0.08 for drivers 21 and older

0.00 for drivers younger than 21

WyomingDUI

0.08 for drivers 21 and older

0.02 for drivers younger than 21

*Indicates a state has a zero-tolerance law for drivers younger than 21 and language such as “any measurable amount of alcohol in the blood” is used.

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DUI statistics in the U.S.

DUIs are quite common in the U.S. Insurify data shows that more than 2% of all U.S. drivers have DUIs, and in some states, as many as 5% have a DUI on their record.

More than 11,000 people were killed in drunk driving accidents in 2020 — accounting for about 30% of all traffic deaths in the country. Nearly 230 children were among those deaths.[3]

The consequences of a DUI conviction

Many consequences come with a DUI charge. There may be jail time and fines, and you may have your driver’s license revoked. In West Virginia, for example, potential jail times vary from 24 hours to 10 years, depending on the offender’s age, BAC, and any injuries that occur due to their impaired driving. Fines range from $25 to $5,000.

In Texas, fines range from $2,000 to $10,000, you can face up to 10 years in prison, and you may lose your license for up to two years.

Many states revoke licenses for minors and adults with high BACs or previous offenses. Some states also require DUI offenders to install ignition interlock devices in their cars. Ignition interlock devices require the driver to give a breath sample before the car can be turned on. If the device detects any alcohol, it won’t start.

Keep in Mind: 

A DUI charge usually remains on your driving record for five to 10 years, depending on state laws where you live. In some cases, it may remain on your record permanently.

How a DUI increases car insurance premiums

Having a DUI on your record can increase your car insurance premiums — and often quite a bit. Insurify data shows that a DUI can increase your car insurance premiums by almost 100%.

Some car insurance companies may choose not to renew your policy once you get a DUI, as it indicates you’re a higher-risk driver. If this happens, shop around with other insurers. Some may still offer coverage. You can also consider using public transportation until you can get insurance.

Additionally, you may need to ask your current insurer for an SR-22 form, which proves to the state you have the legally required minimum insurance after your DUI. You may need to have an SR-22 on file for a few years, depending on your state.

DUI FAQs

Here are answers to some commonly asked questions about DUIs.

  • What’s the difference between a DUI, an OWI, and a DWI?

    Every state has its own laws regarding impairing driving. Some refer to it as driving under the influence (DUI), operating while intoxicated (OWI), or driving while intoxicated (DWI). The exact charge you can face depends on what state you’re in when committing the offense.

  • What’s the difference between a DUI and impaired driving?

    These terms are often used interchangeably, though it depends on the laws in your state. Some states may use “impaired” to indicate a lesser level of intoxication and less severe penalties.

  • What’s a DUI safety corridor?

    A DUI safety corridor is a portion of a highway or state road that is known to have a high rate of DUI-related accidents with fatalities or serious injuries. As a result, law enforcement usually has a higher presence on these stretches of road. These corridors may also come with increased fines for offenders.

  • How long do DUIs and DWIs stay on your driving record?

    This depends on the state you were charged in. In Delaware, a DUI stays on your record for at least five years. In some states, you may be able to have the DUI expunged from your record. Ask a lawyer in your state if this is something you’re considering.

  • Will you go to jail if you receive a DUI or DWI?

    You could go to jail for getting a DUI or DWI. The exact penalty will depend on your state, age, BAC, and previous convictions. In Texas, first-time offenders can get three to 180 days of jail time. But repeat offenders face up to 10 years in prison.

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Sources

  1. Drunk Driving. "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over."
  2. National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration. "Drunk Driving."
  3. Centers for Disease Control. "Impaired Driving: Get the Facts ."
Aly J. Yale
Aly J. Yale

Aly J. Yale is a freelance writer and reporter covering real estate, mortgages, and personal finance. Her work has been published in Forbes, Business Insider, Money, CBS News, US News & World Report, and The Miami Herald. She has a bachelor’s degree in radio-TV-film and news-editorial journalism from the Bob Schieffer College of Communication at TCU and is a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors.

Courtney Mikulski
Edited byCourtney MikulskiSenior Editor, Auto
Courtney Mikulski
Courtney MikulskiSenior Editor, Auto
  • 3+ years producing insurance and personal finance content

  • Main architect of the Insurify Quality Score

Courtney’s deep personal finance knowledge extends beyond insurance to credit cards, consumer lending, and banking. She thrives on creating actionable content.

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