What is the difference between a DUI, DWI and an OWI?

What is the difference between a DUI, DWI and an OWI?  This is a question that I received today.

Illinois only has an offense known as “driving under the influence” or DUI.  We do not have anything called driving while impaired or driving while intoxicated.

However, other states do.  Some states call their DUI charges OWI (“operating while intoxicated”) or DWI (which can mean “driving while intoxicated” or “driving while impaired”).  In some states “driving while impaired” is considered a lesser offense and it is considered a great plea deal if you get your case reduced from DUI to DWI or what is often referred to as a “wet reckless” (i.e., reckless driving involving alcohol).

What is relevant for an Illinois resident, or anyone who has an Illinois drivers license, is that if you get a conviction in another state for DUI or a similar offense (which includes “driving while impaired” or “wet reckless”), Illinois will driving privileges for a minimum of one year.

So, if you have an Illinois drivers license, and get a DUI or similar offense in another state, keep in mind that when your local counsel is telling you that he or she is getting you a great deal by getting your case reduced to “driving while impaired” or “wet reckless”; they are not realizing that by entering such a plea you will be throwing away your Illinois drivers license.

My advice to anyone who has an Illinois drivers license and you finds him or herself fighting a DUI type of offense in another state is that you should make every attempt to have the case reduced to either “dry reckless” or “negligent driving” or otherwise prepare for trial and seek a not guilty — or plead guilty knowing that your license will be revoked and you won’t be eligible for reinstatement for at least one year.