What Is The Difference Between A DUI And A DWAI? Our Denver DUI Attorney Explains

Today, driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is viewed as a serious offense in both the eyes of the courts and the public at large. If you are pulled over and are now facing DWAI or DUI charges, it’s important to take the proper steps to optimize your outcome. Both charges can impact your life at all levels, making it essential to seek out a local DUI lawyer near you that can provide guidance through every step of this process. The Law Office of Jill M. Jackson is proud to help Colorado clients in need to find the best results to get their lives back on track. Our DUI attorneys help Denver drivers navigate the maze of legalities of today’s correctional system, relying on years of experience and favorable outcomes to deliver a dedicated level of service to every individual we help. Jill M. Jackson is invested in the client and their goals, delivering personalized services that are accredited and highly awarded.

We have the knowledge and experience needed to help you following a DUI arrest. Today, we’ll clarify the differences between a DUI and a DWAI. If you’re looking for a qualified Denver criminal defense team to help you find a favorable outcome, be sure to call today.

Defining DUIs and DWIs

The closeness in letters and the similarity of the charges make these driving offenses easy to confuse. In either scenario, Colorado drivers will face two cases, one involving the DMV and your driving status and the other involving DUI penalties in the courtroom. If you are curious about what each term entails, remember that:

  • Driving while ability impaired (DWAI) is the lesser of the two charges, typically reserved for those who are slightly affected by drugs or alcohol. If your blood alcohol content (BAC) exceeds .05 percent, you will likely face a DWI arrest. Any level of impairment observed by officers will be documented fully for later hearing.
  • Driving under the influence (DUI) laws focus on chemistry over personal impairment, assessing charges to anyone with a BAC over .08 percent. Drivers that showed no signs of impairment may still face DUI penalties based on results collected by law enforcement.
  • Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a term often used with DUI charges, and is not the same as DWAI. This is where most of the confusion comes from for Colorado drivers.

Police officers are highly trained to look for any signs of impairment at roadside stops. Sight, sound, and smell all will play big roles in determining intoxication. Remember that any level of impairment in either your physical or mental faculties will be documented.

Limits for Minors

Juveniles placed under a DWAI or DUI arrest are often done so because Colorado’s BAC limit for minors drops from .08 percent to .02 percent. This is done to deter underage drinking and driving, as the former can be hazardous enough for children both physically and legally. Keep in mind that all drivers have automatically consented to being tested by police officers if stopped, as it is one condition agreed to when owning a Colorado driver’s license. If you are stopped for suspicion of driving under the influence, you will have the option to refuse the breath test and be taken in for a blood test. Remember, though, that a refusal can result in an automatic suspension of your licensing pending the outcome of your case.

DWAI and DUI Penalties

Each charge holds its own separate levity, as DUIs concern your BAC while DWAIs revolve around your ability to operate a motor vehicle. Both can be fought in a court of law, and both come with their own set of charges.


Even if your BAC falls below the DUI minimum, you can still face charges if it has been proven in a court that your driving was impaired.

  • First offense – Up to 500 dollars in fines, 2-180 days in jail. You can face up to eight points against your license. Some drivers may be able to continue driving with a restrictive interlock device. Expect up to 48 hours of community service as part of your repayment.
  • Second offense – Up to 1000 dollars in fines, 45-365 days in jail. Second-time offenders may lose their license up to a year in addition to jail time. You may also be assessed up to 96 hours of public service.


Regardless of your driving habits, DUIs are assessed once you pass the 0.08 threshold. First-time offenders often face a 12-point penalty, resulting in a license suspension. Based on the circumstances of your case, you may spend between five days and one year in jail. Colorado bases its DUI penalties on five-year periods, as the DMV holds fines and judgements for half a decade. A second DUI offense in five years can result in a minimum of 90 days in jail in addition to $1000 in fines. You can also expect a license revocation for at least one year. As offenders face more frequent charges, the associated penalties increase in intensity. You can face prison time if designated as a habitual traffic offender.

If you are facing a DWI arrest and are in need of a legal team that can provide quality guidance and support, the Law Office of Jill M. Jackson is here to serve. Our DUI attorneys help Denver drivers find the best outcomes for the case, delivering comprehensive care to try and help restore lives in the process. Contact us today for assistance.