Rhode Island and Massachusetts Personal Injury Lawyers: What is the Difference Between DWI, DUI and OUI?

January 22nd, 2020

At my firm, we stand up against drunk drivers who cause personal injuries in car accidents.  We are proud to represent the injured victims and their families and proud to support Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).  We limit our practice to personal injury (recovering money for the victims).  Today I am sharing some common terms that are used in criminal proceedings but also may be admissible in your civil personal injury case:

In Rhode Island, a driver can be penalized with a DWI, driving while intoxicated, or a DUI, driving under the influence. However, in Massachusetts, you can be charged with both a DUI and DWI, but also an OUI – operating under the influence. What are the differences between the three?

Rhode Island Law – DWI and DUI

Many auto accidents in Rhode Island are caused by drunk drivers – but what charges do they receive after being pulled over? A drunk driver can be convicted of a DWI for the following:

  • Driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or higher
  • Driving while under the influence of any alcohol, drug, or controlled substance
  • Driving with any amount of controlled substance (illegal drugs) in your blood

The penalties of a DWI depend on the judge, who will consider the driver’s criminal history and the circumstances of the incident. Rhode Island separates their convictions based upon the number of prior DWIs the person has received, the driver’s BAC, the level of impairment, and if the offense involves drugs.

In Rhode Island, the law will charge an intoxicated driver with a DUI rather than a DWI when they are under the age of 21 and have a BAC between 0.02% and 0.08%.

Massachusetts Law – OUI

In Massachusetts, an OUI is defined as anyone “operating a motor vehicle on a public road or in any place to which the public has the right of access while under the influence of alcohol at a level of .08% BAC or higher, or under the influence of drugs, stimulants, depressants, or even glue vapors.”

For a DUI and DWI, it implies that there is driving happening while under the influence. If you are in Massachusetts and are simply pulled over on the road while intoxicated – you can be charged with an OUI.

Massachusetts also has a stricter law called “Melanie’s Law” which strengthens the penalties for repeat drunk drivers. This was named after a Massachusetts native who was killed in a drunk driving car accident caused by a repeat offender.

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