There is no difference in Virginia between these two offenses; they are simply two separate names for the same offense. Any blood alcohol content (BAC) above .08 is considered presumptively intoxicated as well as certain amounts of illegal drugs and in some cases even legally prescribed drugs. Because these offenses have gotten the attention of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) and other organizations, the legislature has drastically increased the penalties for these offenses in recent years.
DUI/DWI is a class one misdemeanor with maximum penalties of up to one year in jail, up to a $2500 fine, enrollment and completion of the Alcohol Safety Action Program (ASAP) and a one year loss of license. You may or may not receive a restricted license by the judge. In addition there is a recent requirement that an Interlock devise be installed for use in every car you drive before you can drive on a restricted license.
In addition if your BAC is between .15 and .20 there are additional penalties including a mandatory five (5) day jail sentence. For a BAC above .20 there is additional jail time of ten (10) days. These penalties are enhanced even further if this is a second offense, and on a third or subsequent offense the matter is elevated to a felony with significantly more severe penalties. See DUI penalty sheet for further information).
There are a number of defenses to this charge, and each case requires individual attention to the specific facts involved. Among some of the major defenses are the legal reason for the stop, probable cause for the arrest, proper testing of breath or blood, field sobriety testing, DWI checkpoints and others. These are not straight forward issues that can easily be handled without the benefit of an attorney.
In many cases this charge can be successfully defended, reduced or otherwise amended to improve the outcome. It is highly recommended that a person charged with this offense at the very least consult with a qualified attorney who regularly handles these types of cases. Free consultations are available either by phone or in person by appointment.