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OUI or OWI Penalties Depend on the Severity of Your Offense



OUI or OWI both refer to operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. They are the same as a DUI or DWI, which are driving while under the influence. The severity of an offense is a factor in determining the penalties you may face if you are convicted.

Operating a Motor Vehicle

Whether an alcohol-related driving offense is termed an OUI, OWI, DWI, or a DUI depends on how the state in which you are charged chooses to name the offense. Some states do distinguish among the acronyms for impaired driving based on the age of the offender or if a drug other than alcohol was involved.

Also, you can be convicted of an OUI or OWI for operating a boat, aircraft, snowmobile, golf cart, ATV, or even a lawnmower since all are motor vehicles. Most states ban driving while impaired on any of these vehicles even on private property.

Severity of the Offense

Each state and even individual counties have their own standard sentences for OUI or OWI offenders, mainly depending on whether the offense is a first offense or if the defendant has multiple drunk driving convictions.

Should the OUI or OWI include aggravating circumstances, however, the penalties will be more severe. The following situations can enhance your sentence in nearly all instances:

  • Having a blood alcohol content (BAC) at or exceeding a certain level (usually 0.15)
  • Causing an accident with serious bodily injury, disfigurement, or death
  • Having a minor or person under a certain age as a passenger
  • Causing property damage
  • Driving on a suspended license

Some states will charge you with a felony if your BAC is over a certain limit or if you had a minor as a passenger, while others will upgrade it to a higher degree of a misdemeanor charge. If anyone suffered a serious injury, you will most likely be charged with a felony. This is regardless if you are a first-time offender.

Should a death result, you risk a charge of vehicular manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, or other homicide offenses. Most states have mandatory minimum jail or prison sentences if any of these aggravating circumstances apply in your case.

Civil Penalties

Along with the criminal penalties and substantial fines, the court can require you to make restitution to any victims. You will more than likely be a defendant in a civil lawsuit if anyone was injured or killed.

In any case, your license will be suspended anywhere from one year to permanent revocation if convicted of manslaughter, vehicular homicide, or any other OUI or OWI as a felony, or if you have prior offenses. If eligible to drive, you most likely will have to install an ignition lock on your car that prevents you from driving if it detects any alcohol on your breath.

Regardless of the severity of your offense, an OUI or OWI is a serious criminal offense. Promptly consult with a DUI or OUI/OWI lawyer or criminal defense lawyer if you are charged with driving while under the influence of alcohol or a drug.