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What happens if I get a DWI while visiting out of state?

Demystifying Out of State DWI/DUIs

If you receive a driving while intoxicated (DWI) conviction at home, the implications are clear. You will get a fine, your driving license may be suspended, and a series of punishments may follow depending on the seriousness of the offense. Many people wonder what an out of state DWI means and whether they can opt to ignore it when they return home. This blog post will hopefully demystify the uncertainty regarding out of state DWIs.


Differences in Drunk-Driving Offenses

In every state, there is a specific name or definition for a drunken driving offense. While some states refer to the offense as a DWI, other states call the same offense a driving while ability impaired (DWAI), or driving under the influence (DUI). The question then arises, how are DUI convictions out of state dealt with for suspension and enhancement purposes?

Sentence Enhancements for Repeat Offenders

Most states have statutes whereby a habitual, or repeat, offender receives a harsher sentence than someone else who is convicted of the same crime for the first time. This is intended to discourage people from repeating their crimes.


When Out of State DWI Convictions are Used for Enhancement

In cases where an out of state conviction seeks to enhance an offense such as a DWI to a serious level offense, there are certain requirements that need to be satisfied. In most states, a substantial similarity must exist between the offense one is being charged for, and the offense for which one had been previously convicted. Case law is used to determine the required level of similarity. Basically, courts consider:

1.    Similarities in intent

2.    The main components of both offenses

3.    The definition of impairment or intoxication in other states


For example, Texas respects a DWI charge from Colorado though both states have different definitions for intoxication and different wording and titles of their statutes. Colorado refers to the same offense as driving while ability impaired. However, while comparing the statutes of the two states, the courts concluded that the definition of "driving" was the same in both states. There were also similarities between what is required to prove intoxication.


If the components or elements of the charges differ between the out of state and charging state DWI conviction, enhancement is impossible. Some states have limitations on the application of out of state DWIs. For example, in Montana, an out of state DWI cannot be enhanced unless it was given in less than five years.


Comparing the conditions of out of state DWI charges with the charging state's standards is important when one is looking for a reduction in their punishment. If you are unable to prove disqualification of an out of state conviction before entering a plea, you have no right to raise the issue later in your DWI case.


Impact of Out of State Convictions on Driver's Licenses

Many states have agreed to an Interstate Driver's License Compact. This is a pact between states requiring them to share conviction details regarding driving suspensions and traffic offenses such as DWIs. Under this agreement, if one state convicts a driver from another state of a DWI offense, they will share all this information with the defendant's resident state. This enables the defendant's resident state to offer its own punishment with regard to the offense. For example, if a driver in California gets a DWI conviction in Nevada, the offense will be treated as though it happened in California and therefore, the driver's license will be suspended when they return back home.


Many people think that when they get an out of state DWI, it automatically means that they can continue with their driving privileges in their resident state. To determine the effect of an out of state DWI, one needs to review the enhancement requirements and whether an Interstate Driver's License Compact exists between the two states. In any case, it is advisable to consult a trusted DUI attorney DC to determine the implication of your out of state DWI conviction.


Picture1.pngThanks to our friends and contributors from The Law Firm of Frederick J. Brynn, P.C. for their added insight into DUI and criminal defense practice.

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