What is the difference between an OWI and a DUI?

Every state sets the laws that govern drunk driving incidents.

Sometimes the difference from one state to another may be a single word, but that word could be the one that turns the incident into an arrest. In Iowa, driving drunk may result in an OWI charge rather than DUI, and the difference is important.

Operating vs driving

The O in OWI stands for “operating,” and the D in DUI stands for “driving.” The difference may appear subtle, but the word operating broadens the reach of the charge. Operating a vehicle includes having any physical control of it, which could happen even without driving. If you sit behind the wheel of a parked car with the engine on while intoxicated, you could face an OWI charge, and this law applies to any motorized vehicle.

Intoxicated vs under the influence

Each state defines intoxicated or under the influence differently. In Iowa, intoxication includes the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both, and the alcohol concentration limit is .08. Use of an illegal drug even days prior could show up on a blood test and warrant an OWI charge. There is a defense for prescription drugs, but to qualify, you must use the drug as prescribed and not mix it with alcohol.

The penalties

The penalties for OWI and DUI in Iowa are similar to most states. First-time offenders often face more lenient punishment.

The circumstances surrounding every OWI are different. Not every situation that could result in an OWI is obvious. This is why every driver should understand drunk driving laws.