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What Is an OWI Charge: Learn More About This Serious Offence


An OWI or Operating While Intoxicated charge is a serious offense. If you have been charged with an OWI, speak with an experienced attorney as soon as possible.

Definition of OWI According to Drunk Driving Laws


States across the US use different acronyms for drunk driving offenses. In addition, in some states, it’s not necessary to drive a vehicle under the influence to face a drunk driving charge.

Driving under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or other controlled substances is known as DUI; driving while intoxicated is known as DWI; operating while intoxicated is known as OWI. Although all three terms somehow refer to drunk driving, OWI is a broader term, making it stricter.

DC drunk driving laws make it illegal for an individual to be in physical control of a motor vehicle while alcohol, drugs, or both impair their ability to operate that vehicle. Hence, to convict a driver with DUI charges, the prosecution must prove that the driver operated a vehicle while under the influence and that the driver’s ability to drive was impaired.

OWI vs. DUI: What Is the Difference?


One of Washington DC’s most common drunk driving charges is DWI or DUI. If a driver operates a vehicle while their blood alcohol content (BAC) is at least .08% above the legal blood alcohol limit, they will be arrested and face a DWI charge.

An OWI offense is charged on offenders who operate a vehicle while impaired. Operating a motor vehicle is a much broader term than driving a car. Therefore, even sitting in a parked car while you are under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or medications, even without the engine running, can result in an arrest for OWI.

Overall, the critical difference between the two terms is that OWI charges don’t require the vehicle to be in motion, just that a person under the influence can control its movement.

Although it may not sound as serious as a DWI or DUI charge, operating a vehicle while intoxicated carries a misdemeanor charge. A first-time offender of OWI can still end up in jail if convicted. In addition to jail time, other penalties can include driver’s license suspension, fines, and installing an ignition interlock device.

So, if you are facing OWI charges, help from an experienced OWI and DUI defense attorney is necessary if you want to avoid the harsh penalties.

How Are OWI Charges Proved?


An arresting officer can use different methods to obtain evidence to prove the OWI charge. These methods include:

  • Field sobriety tests
  • Blood or urine tests
  • Statements from the driver while stopped by the officer

Contact a skilled defense attorney if a police officer suspects you of DWI or OWI. If you are being tested for DUI, you have the right to have an attorney present.


Penalties for an OWI Driving Violation


Individuals convicted of OWI offenses could spend up to 90 days in jail and pay a fine of $500. As with other drunk driving offenses, penalties get harsher for every subsequent offense.

A second OWI conviction carries a mandatory minimum jail time of 5 days, while the driver would have to spend at least ten days in jail after a third OWI conviction. The maximum jail sentence for the second or third conviction is up to a year.

Even though criminal penalties for OWI offenses are more lenient than DUI and DWI, OWI offenses are also the easiest to prove.

When a police officer makes an arrest for drunk driving, it’s typically for a DUI. They investigate the offense as if it was a DUI.

However, when deciding how to charge the driver, they may charge them with both offenses. Although an individual can be charged with OWI and DUI simultaneously, they cannot be convicted of both crimes.

OWI is almost always charged together with a DUI as a lower offense in a DUI case. That’s why having a strong DUI and OWI defense strategy is crucial. While DUI and OWI offenses are taken very seriously, it is possible to beat them by working with a competent OWI and DUI lawyer.

Detailed Comparison of OWI, DUI, DWI, and Related Charges

When navigating the legal landscape of impaired driving, understanding the nuances between OWI, DUI, DWI, and related charges is paramount. While these terms are often used interchangeably, they hold distinct legal implications.

OWI (Operating While Intoxicated)

OWI is a term commonly used in Michigan and signifies operating a vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs. In Michigan, the legal limit for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08%.

DUI (Driving Under the Influence) and DWI (Driving While Intoxicated)

DUI and DWI are used in various states and can sometimes be used interchangeably, referring to driving a vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs. The legal BAC limit and penalties vary by state, leading to differences in how these charges are prosecuted.

Comparison of Penalties

Penalties for OWI, DUI, DWI, and related charges can include fines, license suspension, mandatory alcohol education programs, community service, and in some cases, jail time. Factors such as prior offenses, BAC level, and presence of aggravating circumstances can influence the severity of penalties.

Legal Defenses

Legal defenses for OWI, DUI, DWI, and related charges often revolve around challenging the validity of chemical tests, questioning the legality of the traffic stop, or presenting evidence of improper police procedure.

Understanding these distinctions and potential defenses is crucial for individuals facing these charges, highlighting the importance of seeking legal counsel to navigate the complexities of impaired driving laws effectively.

Why OWI Lawyers Can Help Your Case


OWI is classified as a misdemeanor, proving that the government takes these charges seriously. The prosecution’s success in OWI cases depends on whether it can prove that the driver’s ability to operate a vehicle was visibly impaired.

Although the defendant’s legal blood alcohol content can be lower than the state’s legal limit, they may still be convicted if the prosecutor and the police provide sufficient proof the defendant was impaired. Slurred speech, a smell of alcohol, and poor performance on a field sobriety test can be used as evidence.

Bear in mind that upon arrest, the driver will most likely face driver’s license suspension by the DC Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). If the driver applies for a DMV hearing, they may have a chance to keep their driving privileges. Driving privileges are essential in today’s society, so it would be a good idea to employ the help of a skilled lawyer to help you prepare for your DMV hearing.

If a driver is convicted of any drunk driving offense, the DC DMV can revoke their driving privileges for up to six months. In addition, convicted drivers may be required to install an ignition interlock device. The second OWI conviction can result in an even more severe driver’s license revocation period of up to two years.

A lawyer experienced in litigating DUI and OWI charges can help since OWI is still a criminal charge that can result in a criminal conviction on your record. That’s why it’s crucial to retain an experienced attorney who has successfully defended OWI and other drug-related or drunk driving charges.

Hiring an OWI Attorney in DC


DC is not the only state where the OWI offense exists. Other states, including Maine, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, have some form of operating while intoxicated offense.

In Virginia, as long as there is a possibility of operating a vehicle with blood alcohol levels over the legal limit, a police officer can arrest the driver on suspicion of driving under the influence. So consulting with a Virginia DUI lawyer can be smart if you want to pursue the best possible option in your case.

Time is often of the essence in any drunk driving case, including an OWI case. When you retain DC DUI lawyer Joseph A. Scrofano of Scrofano Law, you can rest assured that you have a dedicated legal representative on your side.

We will do our best and work relentlessly until your case reaches the most favorable resolution. If you or your loved one has been charged with an OWI in DC, reach out to us at 202-630-0949 today so we can start developing an effective defense.


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