North Carolina state law categorizes DUI and DWI as one term; this means you can call driving while drunk either DUI or DWI based on preference. However, did you know that a number of state laws consider the two offenses as separate terms? In this case, DUI is the lesser evil compared to DWI, as far as penalties are concerned.
From a literal standpoint, the two acronyms differ by one letter. DUI means “driving under the influence (of alcohol or drugs)” while DWI means “driving while intoxicated.” This may seem a no-brainer, but some states impose sanctions on offenders based on this one-letter difference, primarily in relation to blood alcohol content (BAC) limits.
It can be argued that North Carolina is a zero-tolerance state, which is why state law considers DUI and DWI as one and the same offense. Zero tolerance particularly applies to drivers under 21 years of age, for whom the BAC limit is strictly zero. Other states follow the federal standard of 0.08, where anything in excess can result in a DWI. If it’s a first-time offense, a judge may reduce the charge to a DUI.
Some states (North Carolina included) also refer to DUI as driving under the influence of drugs, which is an accepted term. In other words, DUI or DWI isn’t just alcoholic in nature but also narcotic. However, drug use warrants a more serious offense than alcohol consumption due to the pernicious effects of illegal drugs.