What does a DWI mean?
The DWI meaning applies to drivers caught behind the wheel with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of .08% (.05% in Utah). You will lose your driver's license and face various criminal charges depending on the laws in your state. Your auto insurance rates will go up with a DWI charge on your record.
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UPDATED: May 5, 2022
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- DWI is an acronym that stands for “Driving While Intoxicated”
- The DWI meaning has two different definitions: administrative and criminal
- There is no difference in auto insurance when it comes to DWI vs. DUI — your rates will go up with either offense
DWI is an acronym that stands for “Driving While Intoxicated.” The DWI meaning is applied only to intoxication by alcohol, unlike a DUI, which applies to drivers under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
What is a DWI charge? You will be charged with a DWI if you’re caught behind the wheel with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or higher. If you have a DWI on your driving record, you can expect your auto insurance rates to go up.
Insurance companies consider DWI charges high-risk and will often double your rates. You’ll likely be required to carry SR-22 auto insurance, and you may lose coverage with your current insurer if it doesn’t provide that type of policy.
Keep reading to learn more about the DWI meaning vs. DUI and where to find affordable high-risk auto insurance. We explain what happens when you get a DWI and the major differences between DWI vs. DUI in auto insurance and the law.
Ready to compare high-risk auto insurance companies for free? Enter your ZIP code above to start comparing auto insurance quotes today.
What does a DWI mean?
A DWI is a drunk driving offense that means “driving while intoxicated.” Facing DWI charges means your BAC was .08%, and you were legally drunk while driving.
What does DWI mean in law? In law, DWI has two meanings: administrative and criminal. DWI still means “driving while intoxicated,” but how this definition is handled is very different.
First, the administrative DWI meaning applies to your driver’s license. In this case, DWI means you will lose your license. For example, failing or refusing to take a breathalyzer or chemical sobriety test for DWI will automatically result in a loss of license.
Second, the criminal definition of DWI applies to the legal consequences of the charge. In this case, DWI could mean going to jail or paying a fine. Criminal definitions of DWI can vary by state, but you could be facing felony charges if you have more than one DWI.
What is the difference between DWI vs. DUI?
The difference between DWI and DUI rests mainly with the criminal definition. Drivers will lose their licenses with either a DUI or DWI charge but face different criminal repercussions depending on what substances are in their systems at the time of arrest.
In this case, the DWI meaning applies only to alcohol intoxication, while DUI refers to drug or alcohol intoxication or a combination of the two.
Depending on your state, you may face both DWI and criminal drug charges if charged with a DUI. However, some states use DUI and DWI interchangeably. So, if you’re facing charges for driving while intoxicated, get in touch with a lawyer who can help you better understand the auto insurance laws in your state and the legal options available to you.
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What does a DWI mean to auto insurance?
Once you’re charged with a DWI, you cannot reinstate your license or legally drive again until you file an SR-22 insurance form with your local DMV. The SR-22 proves that you carry the minimum levels of car insurance to drive after license revocation.
Filing SR-22 moves you into the high-risk category for auto insurance. High-risk drivers pay more than double the standard rates for car insurance, and DUI insurance rates are some of the most expensive.
This table shows how DWI auto insurance rates compare to other driving-related offenses:
Average Annual Auto Insurance Rate Increase by Driving Violation
Driving Violation Average Annual Auto Insurance Rates Average Rate Increase Percentages
Clean record $1,857.80 N/A
first offense (3-5 years)
Cell phone/texting $2,108.40 13%
Speeding (less than 20 mph over) $2,108.40 13%
Speeding (more than 20 over) $2,108.40 13%
At-fault accident $2,360.40 27%
Reckless driving $2,360.80 27%
Hit and run $2,360.80 27%
second offense (3-5 years)
Along with expensive rates, DWIs can stay on your record for five years or more. This means that auto insurance companies that look back farther than three years will continue to charge you for high-risk insurance.
Is cheap auto insurance with a DWI possible? Yes, but reinstating your license after a DWI is a long and expensive process. It will be a few years before you start to see your auto insurance rates drop. So, get quotes from at least three different high-risk insurers to make sure you don’t overpay for coverage.
What happens when you get a DWI?
If the police stop you for suspected drunk driving, the officer will ask you to take a breathalyzer or blood sobriety test.
It is your right to refuse a field sobriety test. However, you will automatically lose your license and be arrested. The police will then test your BAC at the police station to prove whether you were intoxicated, and you will be charged with a DWI offense.
What is a DWI offense?
Typically, first-time DWI offenses are considered misdemeanors. However, multiple DWI offenses or a DWI charge combined with reckless driving or vehicular manslaughter may be considered a felony.
The criminal charges you face for a DWI will vary by state and your criminal record. Take a look at the table below to see DWI laws and punishments by state:
Drunk Driving Laws and Penalties by State
STATE JAIL MINIMUM FINES & FEES MIN. LICENSE SUSPENSION INGITION INTERLOCK DEVICE REQUIRED
Alabama None $600 to $2,100 90 Days No
Alaska Min. 72 hours $1,500 Min. 90 days Yes
Arizona Min. 24 hours $250 base fine 90 to 360 days Yes
Arkansas 24 hours to 1 year $150 to $1,000 6 months Yes
California 4 days to 6 months $1,400 to $2,600 30 days to 10 months Yes, in some counties
Colorado Up to 1 year (DUI), or up to 180 days (DWAI) Up to $1,000 (DUI), or up to $500 (DWAI) 9 months (DUI), none for DWAI No
Connecticut 2 days up to 6 months $500 to $1,000 1 year No
Delaware Max. 6 months $500 to $1,1500 1 to 2 years No
District of Columbia Max 90 days $300 to $1,100 6 months No
Florida 6 to 9 months $500 to $2,000 180 days to 1 year Yes
Georgia 24 hours to 1 year $300 to $1,000 Up to 1 year No
Hawaii None $150 to $1,000 90 days No
Idaho Up to 6 months Up to $1,000 90 to 180 days No
Illinois Up to 1 year Up to $2,500 Min. 1 year Yes
Indiana 60 days to 1 year $500 to $5,000 Up to 2 years No
Iowa 48 hours up to 1 year $625 to $1,200 180 days Yes, if BAC above .10
Kansas 48 hour min. $750 to $1,000 30 days Yes
Kentucky None $600 to $2,100 90 days No
Louisiana 2 days to 6 months $1,000 90 days Possible
Maine 30 days $500 90 days No
Maryland Up to 1 year (DUI); up to 2 months (DWI) Up to $1,000 (DUI); up to $500 (DWI) Min 6 months (DUI & DWI) No
Massachusetts Up to 30 months $500 to $5,000 1 year No
Michigan Up to 93 days From $100 to $500 Up to 6 months Possible
Minnesota Up to 90 days $1,000 Up to 90 days Yes
Mississippi Up to 48 hours $250 to $1,000 90 days No
Missouri Up to 6 months Up to $500 30 days Possible
Montana 2 days to 6 months $300 to $1,000 6 months Possible
Nebraska 7 to 60 days Up to $500 Up to 60 days No
Nevada 2 days to 6 months $400 to $1,000 90 days Possible
New Hampshire None $500 to $1,200 6 months No
New Jersey Up to 30 days $250 to $500 3 months to 1 year Possible
New Mexico Up to 90 days Up to $500 Up to 1 year Yes
New York None $500 to $1,000 6 months Yes
North Carolina 24 hours (for level 5 offender) (however, if 3 aggravated factors are present -- Level 1A -- minimum of 12 months) $200 (for level 5 offendor) 60 days to 1 year No
North Dakota None $500 to $750 91 to 180 days No
Ohio 3 days to 6 months $250 to $1,000 6 months to 3 years No
Oklahoma 5 days to 1 year Up to $1,000 30 days No
Oregon 2 days or 80 hours community services $1,000 to $6,250 1 year Yes
Pennsylvania None $300 No Yes, if refusal to take chemical test
Rhode Island Up to 1 year $100 to $500 2 to 18 months No
South Carolina 48 hours to 90 days $400 to $1,000 6 months No
South Dakota Up to 1 year $1,000 30 days to 1 year No
Tennessee 48 hours up to 11 months $350 to $1,500 1 year Yes
Texas 3 to 180 days Up to $2,000 90 to 365 days No
Utah 48 hours min. $700 min. 120 days No
Vermont Up to 2 years Up to $750 90 days No
Virginia Min. 5 days Min. $250 1 year Yes (if BAC .15 or above)
Washington 24 hours to 1 year $865.50 to $5,000 90 days to 1 year Yes
West Virginia Up to 6 months $100 to $1,000 15 to 45 days Possible
Wisconsin None $150 to $300 6 to 9 months No
Wyoming Up to 6 months Up to $750 90 days Yes - if BAC .15 or above
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No matter where you live, DWI offenses almost always result in license revocation. However, jail time and fines vary widely.
What is a medical DWI charge?
Along with the DMV and the judicial system, the state medical board can also mete out punishments and restrictions on medical professionals facing DWI charges.
For example, state boards often require mandatory drug and alcohol treatment for doctors and nurses before returning to practice. If charges involve multiple DWIs, or if the DWI directly relates to their practice of medicine, they could lose their medical licenses.
However, these restrictions apply when a medical professional faces any criminal charge, not just DWI.
DWI Meaning: What You Need To Know
While the DWI definition varies slightly from state to state, the slang DWI meaning is simply “drunk driving.” In most states, DWI is an acronym that stands for “Driving While Intoxicated” and refers specifically to alcohol intoxication. If applicable, the law will differentiate DUI by defining it as drug and/or alcohol intoxication.
The DWI meaning and DUI definition are synonymous in terms of auto insurance — your auto insurance rates will go up either way. Insurance companies will consider you a high-risk driver and charge you accordingly.
However, how DWIs impact your rates is different for every auto insurance company. Before you buy auto insurance coverage, shop with insurers who cater to high-risk drivers to find the most affordable rates. Enter your ZIP code now to compare free quotes from affordable high-risk auto insurance companies near you.