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DUI vs. DWI in West Virginia: What's the Difference?


In West Virginia, DUI (Driving Under the Influence) and DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) are terms often used interchangeably to describe impaired driving offenses. However, there are distinctions between the two offenses that can significantly impact the legal consequences for individuals involved. In this blog, we will explore the differences between DUI and DWI in West Virginia, helping you understand the nuances of each charge and the potential implications for drivers facing these charges.

DUI in West Virginia

Definition and Threshold

In West Virginia, DUI refers to driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both substances that impairs the driver's ability to operate the vehicle safely. The state has a "per se" standard for alcohol intoxication, which means a driver can be charged with DUI if their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) exceeds the legal limit, which is typically 0.08% for most drivers and 0.02% for drivers under 21.


The penalties for a DUI conviction in West Virginia are significant and become more severe with each subsequent offense. First-time offenders may face fines, license suspension, mandatory alcohol safety programs, and possible jail time. Subsequent DUI offenses carry steeper fines, longer license suspensions, and increased jail sentences.

DWI in West Virginia

Definition and Threshold

DWI in West Virginia refers to driving a motor vehicle while "incapable of safely operating" the vehicle due to alcohol or drugs. Unlike DUI, DWI does not require the driver to have a specific BAC level above the legal limit. The focus is on the driver's observable impairment and their inability to safely control the vehicle.


DWI convictions also carry significant penalties, although they may vary slightly from DUI penalties. Similar to DUI, first-time DWI offenders may face fines, license suspension, and mandatory alcohol safety programs. Subsequent DWI offenses result in more severe consequences, including longer license suspensions and increased jail time.

Distinctions between DUI and DWI

The main difference between DUI and DWI in West Virginia lies in the way the offense is proven. DUI is typically based on a specific BAC level exceeding the legal limit, while DWI focuses on observable signs of impairment, regardless of the driver's BAC. Additionally, DWI may apply to cases involving drugs or other substances that may not register on a breathalyzer test.

Legal Defenses for DUI and DWI Charges

If facing DUI or DWI charges in West Virginia, it is essential to explore potential legal defenses to mitigate the consequences. Common defenses include challenging the accuracy of BAC testing equipment, questioning the legality of the traffic stop, and challenging the observations and assessments made by the arresting officer. Consulting with an experienced DUI/DWI defense attorney is critical to building a strong defense strategy tailored to the specifics of the case.

Navigating the complexities of DUI and DWI charges in West Virginia requires a comprehensive understanding of the differences between these offenses. By grasping the distinctions, BAC thresholds, testing procedures, potential penalties, and defense strategies, you can make informed decisions to protect your rights and future.

At The Moore Law Firm, PLLC, we specialize in criminal defense, including DUI and DWI cases. Our experienced attorneys are dedicated to guiding you through the legal process, ensuring the best possible outcome for your situation.

If you need expert legal assistance, contact us today for a free consultation.