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Which Is Worse in Oklahoma, a DUI or a DWI?

Kaylind Landes
5 minute read

Every state in America has laws against drunk driving. But the severity of charges and punishments varies widely, with each state setting its own limits for driving while impaired (DWI) and driving under the influence (DUI). Some states even have OUIs or OWIs, where the O stands for “operating.” Here in Oklahoma, the legal terms used are DUI and DWI.

Sorting out all these acronyms can leave you wondering: Which is worse, a DUI or DWI? What does each one really mean for you? Read on for the answers.

What Is a DUI?

A DUI is when you’re driving, operating, or in actual physical control of a motor vehicle on a public or private road that leads to at least one residence, and you have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher. Actual physical control means you’re inside the vehicle and it’s operable, for example, if you’re “sleeping it off” before driving. A motor vehicle includes anything with wheels, such as electric scooters.

Under the same law, you can also be charged with a DUI-Drugs (DUI-D) if you have any amount of a controlled substance in your system or you’re under the influence of any intoxicating substance. Some of the most common prescription drugs can lead to a DUI-D, including Xanax, Valium and Ambien.

DUI Punishments

DUIs are predicate offenses, which means that the punishment increases with each DUI you get. In addition to being evaluated, taking alcohol and drug substance abuse courses and attending a victim impact panel for each offense, the punishments are:

  • Your first DUI is a misdemeanor charge punishable by a fine up to $1,000 and up to 1 year in jail. Your license can be revoked for 6 months.
  • Every charge after that is a felony charge. Your second DUI is punishable by a fine up to $2,500 and up to 5 years in jail. Your license can be revoked for 1 year.
  • Your third DUI is punishable by a fine up to $5,000 and up to 10 years in jail. Your license can be revoked for 2 years, and you might have to serve community service.
  • Your fourth DUI is punishable by a fine up to $5,000 and up to 20 years in jail. Your license can be revoked for 2 years and your community service can be increased. You’re more likely to go to jail if you have more than two DUIs on your record.

What Is a DWI?

A DWI requires a lower BAC than a DUI: between 0.06 and 0.08. You also can’t be convicted of a DWI without evidence that your ability to operate the vehicle was affected. However, a simple traffic violation is often enough evidence to meet this requirement. DWIs often involve the testimony of the officer who pulled you over.

DWI Punishments

There’s one way that a DUI and DWI are the same: You’ll still have to have an evaluation, take classes and attend a victim impact panel for a DWI. The other punishments for a DWI are not as severe as a DUI. Whether it’s your first offense or you’ve had multiple DWIs, you can expect:

  • A fine of at least $100 but not more than $500
  • No more than 6 months in jail

However, your driver’s license suspension is a separate case from your criminal case. Each suspension can be longer than the last:

  • The first suspension is for 30 days.
  • The second suspension is for 6 months.
  • The third suspension is for 1 year.

Another difference between a DUI and a DWI is that with a DUI, your license suspension proceeding begins when you’re arrested. But with a DWI, your license can’t be suspended unless you’re convicted.

Which Is Worse, a DUI or DWI?

A DUI is worse than a DWI in Oklahoma, for several reasons:

  • Only your first DUI is a misdemeanor, and the punishments for multiple DUIs keep increasing. Every DWI is a misdemeanor with the same punishment.
  • There’s more possible jail time for DUIs, even your first one.
  • License suspensions are longer for DUIs than DWIs.
  • The fines for DUIs are much higher than DWIs.
  • Your license is automatically revoked with a DUI. With a DWI, it won’t be suspended until you’re convicted.
  • A DUI can cause your car insurance rates to skyrocket or your insurer to drop you altogether. A DWI won’t add points to your driving record.

Ultimately, the question of which is worse, a DUI or DWI, comes down to this: A DUI means you had more alcohol in your system than a DWI, so there are harsher punishments.

The Bottom Line

Both DUIs and DWIs are serious charges in Oklahoma. Most of us depend on our licenses to get to work and other obligations, so having it suspended for even six months is a big deal. Plus, while you won’t usually go to jail for a DWI or first-time DUI, the law does allow it. An experienced attorney can help you navigate both the license suspension process and the criminal process so you get the best possible outcome.

It’s time to stop wondering, “Which is worse, a DUI or DWI?” and take action to get your life back. We’re here to help you return to normal as soon as possible. Contact us today to learn more about the differences between DUIs and DWIs and what you can do to fight them.