There are two convictions that you might hear about a lot – the DUI and the DWI. A DUI means ‘driving under the influence’, while a DWI means ‘driving while impaired’, although some states use ‘intoxicated’ instead of ‘impaired’.
The exact definitions vary from state to state. Some use DWI for alcohol and DUI for drugs, others use them the other way around. In either case, though, getting a DWI is a serious thing, and depending on whether you have a past history of it, you could end up losing your right to drive for a while.
An officer can, in some states, charge someone with a DWI even if they do not fail a breath test – the officer is allowed to make a judgement call about whether you are impaired or not.
It is possible to contest a DWI, and if you are in a position where you could lose your license as a result of it then you might want to do that. Ideally, you should try not to get a DWI in the first place though. Tread carefully with the breath test – in many jurisdictions it is an offense to refuse to take the breathalyzer, so you should submit to it unless you know for sure that it’s OK to refuse.
If your BAC is over the limit, then you will need to purchase special insurance if you wish to continue driving, and you may be required to go through a course of education in order to get driving privileges back. Sometimes, if you behave well and do not get another DUI for a period of time you can ‘clear your record’, but this will take a long time. If you have a record of more than one DWI, then you could find that your employment options are significantly reduced.