OWI Information

If you've been charged with OWI (operating a vehicle while intoxicated or impaired), you probably have a lot of questions. Many people facing OWI charges are eager to learn as much OWI information as possible to help them know what to expect as their cases progress.

And getting OWI information is smart. Here's a look at some of the basics of OWI.

OWI vs. DWI: What's the Difference?

For the most part, the difference between the charges of OWI and DWI is simply a matter of jurisdiction: in some states, drunk driving's official name is DWI (driving while intoxicated), in others it's DUI (driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs) and in still other places it's OUI or something else entirely.

In some cases, though, a person can be charged with OWI for operating a vehicle other than a car (such as a bike, a boat or heavy machinery) under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If you're unclear about what your specific charges mean, ask for clarification from a lawyer familiar with your state's laws.

Who Can Be Charged with OWI?

OWI charges can affect you if:

  • You demonstrate through a test of blood alcohol content (BAC) that your BAC is above the legal limit. In most circumstances, that limit is .08 percent.
  • You fail a field sobriety test. In many states, drivers or other vehicle operators can be charged with OWI for failing a field sobriety test (which usually involves performing a series of tasks designed to test reflexes and balance), even if their BAC is below the legal limit.
  • You are too young to legally consume alcohol. If you're under 21 and are found to have even a small amount of alcohol in your system, you may be subject to OWI charges.
  • You test positive for illegal drugs. Because certain substances are not permitted in any amount, any trace of them may result in OWI charges.

If you have been charged with OWI and are not sure why, you can seek legal counsel. A lawyer can help explain your situation to you and, if necessary, help you prepare a defense of your OWI charges for court.

What Are the Consequences of an OWI Conviction?

Many states with OWI laws have different penalties for different types of vehicles. A biker who is found to be intoxicated, for instance, usually faces less serious charges than a driver. Generally speaking, though, OWI penalties have a wide range. They often include:

  • Suspension of license (to drive, boat or operate the vehicle in question);
  • Surrender of vehicle;
  • Mandatory purchase of high-risk insurance;
  • Jail or prison time (in more severe cases);
  • Fines and fees;
  • Probation;
  • Community service;
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device on vehicle; and
  • OWI counseling and/or classes.

These penalties are diverse and applied based on a number of considerations and your state laws. Your lawyer can enlighten you about what potential consequences you might face for an OWI conviction and how you might be able to minimize the likelihood of a serious sentence.

What Happens after an OWI Conviction?

An OWI conviction can affect many areas of your life. If you're convicted of operating a vehicle while intoxicated, it's important to know what to expect and what steps to take to make sure you get back on track as quickly as possible.

Possible outcomes of an OWI conviction include:

  • Difficulty getting a job. Jobs that require driving or operating motor vehicles in particular may be hard to get.
  • More expensive auto insurance. Insurance companies charge more to provide coverage for those with traffic violations of all kinds, including OWI convictions. Some states also require additional insurance called SR-22.
  • Limited driving privileges: Some people convicted of OWI have their licenses or license plates suspended. Others lose the privilege of driving entirely. Either way, many people convicted of OWI must work out alternate transportation for their daily lives.
  • Record expungement: In some states, those who maintain a clean driving and criminal record in the months and years after their OWI conviction may be eligible to have their record cleared. If you're interested in learning whether you might qualify to have your OWI conviction expunged, contact a lawyer in your state.

OWI is a serious crime and it can have a serious impact on your life. If you're ready to take control of your situation, you're ready to speak with an OWI lawyer practicing near you.

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