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What’s the difference between a DUI and a DWI and how do the laws differ in Virginia, DC, and Maryland?

You may hear the acronyms DUI and DWI used interchangeably and in Virginia and DC, they do mean the same thing. But in Maryland, they refer to different levels of impairment and the distinction could be important.

Location Matters When it Comes to Drinking and Driving Violations

In both Virginia and DC, the official charge for having more than the legal limit of alcohol or another substance in your system is a DUI, or Driving Under the Influence. People may use the term DWI to mean the same thing, but it is not an official charge in these jurisdictions. In Maryland, however, DWI stands for Driving While Impaired, and refers to lower levels of alcohol in the bloodstream than a DUI.

The following table outlines the differences in charges between Virginia, Maryland, and DC. 





BAC - 0.08 or above

Chemical blood testing shows:

   -0.02 mg(+) of Cocaine per blood liter

-0.1 mg(+) of Methamphetamine per blood liter

-0.01(+) milligrams of Phencyclidine (PCP) per blood liter

 -0.1(+) milligrams of Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (Ecstasy), per blood liter


- N/A -


BAC - 0.08 or above

Probable cause or suspicion of drug use (drug paraphernalia, chemical test results, etc.)

BAC between 0.04 and 0.08 (0.02 if under 21 years old)

Washington, D.C.

BAC - 0.08 or above (drivers over 21)

BAC - 0.01 or any measurable BAC for drivers under 21 - Zero Tolerance Law

Probable cause or suspicion of drug use (drug paraphernalia, chemical test results, etc.)


- N/A -

No matter what state you’re in—impaired, drunk, sober, Virginia, or Maryland—when you’re accused of a DUI or DWI you need a dependable and experienced defense attorney. Without one, you could wind up suffering more than just a headache. Fill out our contact form, or call us directly at 703-865-6610 to set up an appointment and see how we can help you improve your defense and avoid nasty penalties.​

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Easley Law Firm

  • 10521 Judicial Drive
    Suite 205

    Fairfax, VA 22030
  • Phone: 703-865-6610
  • Fax: 703-842-6101
  • Toll Free: 888-386-3898
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