There are many different terms in use for drunk driving offenses, and while it can seem that these terms are used interchangeably, the terms DUI, DWI, and OWI each have distinct meanings and legal ramifications. If you’ve been charged with a drunk driving offense, it is crucial that you know the meaning and potential consequence of which of these you’ve specifically been charged with.


A DUI is a charge levied for Driving Under the Influence of drugs or alcohol. In Illinois, if you are 21 or older, you are considered intoxicated or under the influence with a blood-alcohol level (BAC) of 0.8 percent or greater. In the case of drugs, you are considered impaired if there is any trace of drug or substance in your breath, blood, or urine (above 5ng/mL THC) as a result of illegal cannabis use or you are rendered incapable of driving safely by the use of a drug or combination of drugs.

Illinois has an implied consent law, meaning that any motorist with a driver’s license consents to sobriety and chemical testing to determine the level of impairment. Refusing testing will subject you to a license suspension of one year, as well as a fine.


DWI stands for Driving While Intoxicated or Driving While Impaired. In some states, this is considered a lesser offense than a DUI. It can also mean, in some states, that the offense was specifically committed while the offender was using alcohol, rather than illegal drugs or other controlled substances. Illinois does not have a charge for DWI offenses separate from DUI—all such offenses are considered DUIs and penalized as such. (Read more on the difference between a DUI and DWI in Illinois here.)

If you have an Illinois license, a conviction in a state other than Illinois for a DUI or similar offense (e.g., DWI) will result in your license being revoked for one year, minimum.


OWI is an acronym for Operating While Intoxicated. Like DWIs, Illinois does not have an OWI charge, just DUI. In other states, however, an OWI can be a more serious offense than a DUI, in states that have penalties for both.

As mentioned before, if you hold an Illinois driver’s license and receive an OWI conviction in another state, your license will be revoked for at least one year.

If you’ve been charged with a DUI, you need the help of an attorney with experience. Call the Epstein Law Firm today to discuss your situation. 773-522-7000

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