When people find out I am a DWI defense lawyer I get asked a number of questions, but one common question is “What is the difference between a DUI and a DWI?” I even remember getting asked this question back when I was in law school and really had no idea about the answer. There was a time back then when I had the mistaken belief that one was related to alcohol intoxication and the other was related to drug intoxication. That answer was wrong, that is not the difference between a DUI and a DWI. The real answer to the question is simple; it depends on what the legislature in your state named the offense in the criminal statutes for your state. Here in Missouri the legislature used RSMo 577.010 to name the offense Driving While Intoxicated and to define the offense as a person who “operates a motor vehicle while in an intoxicated or drugged condition.”
It is important to note that in Missouri intoxication is defined as under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or a combination thereof. Please note, it does not say illegal drugs. This means that if someone takes their prescription Xanax and then has a beer or two that person may very well be legally intoxicated in Missouri. It does not matter that the person has not had enough alcohol to be over the legal limit of 0.08%, or that the Xanax was prescribed by a doctor. If the combination of that Xanax and the beer or two caused the person to be intoxicated then they should not drive. In practice these are very difficult cases for prosecutors to prove. Juries have a difficult time with the combination of legal drugs and alcohol causing someone to be intoxicated. Further, there is no legal limit for drugs, legal or illegal, so drug intoxication becomes a rather ambiguous standard for prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.
If you or a friend have DWI questions, or if you are seeking representation for a DWI related offense, please contact St. Louis DWI lawyer Jason Korner at 314-409-2659 for a free consultation specific to your question or situation.