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The following is for informational purposes only

DWI (Driving While Impaired)


DWI stands for “Driving While Impaired” or “Driving While Intoxicated”. Depending on the jurisdiction, sometimes, “Operating While Intoxicated” or OWI is used. DWI refers to someone who has been caught legally impaired while operating, driving, piloting, or controlling the operation of any of the following: bicycle, motorcycle, boats and watercraft in general, aircraft, farm or construction equipment (combine, tractors), and horse-drawn vehicles or horses. Once arrested for a DWI, the driver can face serious penalties, fines, court costs, license plate impoundment, suspension of drivers' license, probation, house arrest, community service, and even imprisonment.

Impaired Driving means drugged driving. If, when pulled over, a driver seems impaired, but the breathalyzer test indicates no trace of alcohol, the police may think the driver might have used other substances, including illegal or prescription drugs and call a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) to the scene to perform some tests. If the tests are positive, the driver will be charged with DWI.


The Aftermath of a DWI Arrest

  1. At the Scene: When having been pulled over under the suspicion of a DWI, someone is asked to complete several roadside sobriety tests. If they refuse to cooperate, they might be taken to the police station.
  2. At the police station: before more testing and questioning, someone will read the Implied Consent rights to the arrestee. Refusing to take a breath test at this stage is a crime called “refusal” that can result in additional penalties. Blood or urine samples could be asked as well.
  3. The driver has the right to a lawyer, to seek and arrange for a second test of their choosing.
  4. The driver will be informed of their Miranda rights and questioned further.
  5. After booking: a court date is scheduled. Depending on the severity of the DWI, the perpetrator could spend the night in jail or not. If not released that night, the arrestee is kept for a bail hearing before a judge.
  6. After a few weeks, the pre-trial hearing takes place, where the prosecutor meets the driver’s lawyer to discuss the DWI charge and negotiate a settlement. If they reach no agreement, the driver can fight the DWI charge by taking the case to trial.

Aggravated DWI

Although a misdemeanor, an Aggravated DWI is a more severe offense than a regular DWI, applicable to drivers caught with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of at least 0.18. As a new type of DWI, Aggravated DWI has different plea-bargaining limitations and harsher penalties. For a first Aggravated DWI conviction, the perpetrator can be punished with license revocation for at least one year, a fine between $1,000 and $2,500, and up to one year in jail. Aggravated DWI could be elevated to a felony conviction. If someone commits an additional Aggravated DWI within 10 years of a prior charge or convictions for alcohol-related crimes, they could be charged with a Felony Aggravated DWI.


How To Remove a DWI From Your Record?

In general, it’s possible to remove a DWI from someone’s criminal history, although there are some states (such as Texas, for instance) that don’t remove DWI convictions at all. The process of having a specific entry “deleted” from someone’s criminal record is called “expungement”. Depending on the jurisdiction and the specifics of every case, if a misdemeanor DWI was dismissed, the offender could be eligible for filing an expungement petition, as long as they’re not charged with a felony or with another crime following the same arrest. The filing admin fees are up to up to $120, on top of the attorney fees.


What’s Taken Into Account When Granting A DWI Expungement?

In a DWI expungement, the court will consider twelve factors that can be narrowed down to the following:

  • The severity and the circumstances of the DWI crime;
  • The petitioner’s level of participation, criminal record, whether they pose a risk to others or the society;
  • The interval since the DWI happened;
  • The steps taken by the offender towards rehabilitation following the DWI offense;
  • Record of employment and community involvement;
  • Recommendations from law enforcement, victims, prosecutorial, and corrections officials;
  • The reasons for a DWI expungement (need for housing, employment, or other necessities).

Only after analyzing all the factors above, supported by documents and affidavits, the court accepts or denies the request.


Driving Implications of a DWI Conviction

A DWI will affect your driving freedom in several ways. If your license was revoked, you have 30 days to petition for getting it back. If you qualify, you could and apply for a limited license to drive to and from work and you might be required to use an interlock system installed inside your vehicle, which maintains your driving privileges after you blow into the mechanism and if your breath has no traces of alcohol.

You can now use our simple and quick driving records online search tool to verify if yours or somebody else’s criminal history features any DWI convictions.

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