What is the difference between DUI and OWI? Primarily the name but there are also little nuances that justify the different acronyms.
DUI stands for "Driving Under the Influence." OWI stands for "Operating While Under the Influence." In the State of Iowa, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and thus, Iowa uses the acronym OWI. Other states only prohibit driving while under the influence and thus use the acronym DUI. "Operating" under most state laws has a broader definition than "driving" and thus, casts a much wider net. In fact, Iowa defines "Operating" as "being in physical control of a motor vehicle that is in motion or has its engine running." That being the case, one is always "operating" when "driving" but not always "driving" when "operating." Other acronyms such as OMVUI and OUI and DWI which have their own definitions that are much the same but with similar subtle but important distinctions.
Aside from those distinctions, in normal everyday conversations DUI and OWI really mean about the same thing. They are acronyms for drunk driving charges. DUI is the most commonly used because most States prohibit "driving" and not necessarily "operating." As a consequence DUI is the most common acronym used for drunk driving charges.
On an important side note the offense of Operating While Intoxicated in Iowa is Iowa's drunk driving charge. It can be committed in three different ways but the offense is still drunk driving as it is commonly referred to. Whether the person is accused of having an alcohol concentration over .08, being "under the influence of alcohol", having any amount of controlled substances in their system, or a combination of alcohol and controlled substance, the charge is still OWI and the consequences are the same regardless of how it is defined. These charges cary some of the most severe penalties of any misdemeanor offense in this State and must be taken very seriously.
Know your rights; Exercise your rights; Preserve your freedom