DUI Terms & Definitions

Here are some frequently used terms and phrases in DUI or DWI cases.

DUI — DUI is the acronym for driving under the influence. It can be under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination thereof, and is to a degree that renders you incapable of safely operating a motor vehicle.

DWI — DWI is the acronym for driving while intoxicated or driving while impaired. Every state has a similar DUI or DWI law, but you have to consult with an attorney to know what ramifications a DUI or DWI from another state will have on your criminal record as well as your license.

Alcohol — Any intoxicating beverage (gin, whiskey, scotch, rum, vodka, beer, wine, etc.)

Drugs — A habit-forming medicinal or illicit substance, especially a narcotic (marijuana, oxycodone, Percocet, Xanax, etc.)

Field tests or field sobriety tests — Physical or cognitive tests to determine sobriety.

PBT — Preliminary Breath Test — A form of field sobriety test conducted roadside utilizing a small handheld device that detects whether alcohol is present on the breath.

Breathalyzer — It is a device for estimating blood alcohol content (BAC) from a breath sample. Breathalyzer is the brand name of a series of models made by one manufacturer of these instruments, but has become the general name for all such instruments.

Blood test — Once arrested, a person is transported to the local hospital to consent to a blood draw. The implied consent warnings are read and a nurse or other hospital personal draws two tubes of blood that will later be sent to a lab for testing to determine the amount of alcohol or drugs present in the blood sample. This sample must be taken within two hours, unless delineated exceptions apply.

Refusal — A refusal to submit to a blood or breath test under the implied consent laws will have separate penalties in addition to those faced for the DUI. Law enforcement determines what they deem to be a refusal and does not necessarily have to be the verbal "no" but can be refusing to listen to the implied consent warnings or refusing to give an answer after an extended amount of time.

Impaired — A term used to mean under the influence of a drug or alcohol to a degree that made them "incapable of safely driving."

House arrest — A person who is facing DUI conviction may be screened for house arrest. If deemed suitable for house arrest, they can spend the mandatory jail term at home with restrictions, rather than serving the time in a correctional facility.

License suspension — The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) has the authority to suspend your license. PennDOT will send you a notice in the mail to officially inform you of your license suspension. Don't think that just because your license may be suspended in this state that you'll be free to drive in other states. The National Driver Register stores information on Pennsylvania drivers with suspended licenses and makes this data available to other state motor vehicle agencies. Additionally, Pennsylvania belongs to the Driver License Compact (DLC), which means that your driving information will be shared between DLC members, and if you're convicted of an offense in another state, PennDOT will likely know about it.

DUI by drugs — Driving under the influence of drugs to a degree that renders you incapable of safely driving, but without any alcohol in your system.

Toxicology — Toxicology is a branch of biology, chemistry and medicine concerned with the study of the adverse effects of chemicals on living organisms. Toxicology experts are used in DUI cases to discuss what affects certain levels of drugs or alcohol would have had on a person who had consumed them.

Homicide by vehicle while DUI — Any person who causes the unintentional death of another person as a result of a DUI and is convicted of that DUI. You could face a mandatory prison sentence of three to six years, or greater, if convicted.

Hit-and-run — It is also known as leaving the scene of an accident and has additional license suspensions. Hit-and-run can occur when you crash into an object (tree, pole or guard rail), another vehicle (either occupied or not), or even a person and will make the DUI more serious.

Aggravated assault by motor vehicle while DUI — When any person negligently causes serious bodily injury to another person as the result of a DUI and is convicted of that DUI. This is a felony offense.