I often get asked the question, what is the difference between Driving While Intoxicated, Driving Under the Influence, and Operating Under the Influence? There is no real difference–different states just use the similar sounding titles for what is the same crime. Missouri’s statute just happens to call the offense “Driving While Intoxicated,” so lawyers who practice in this area simply call it “DWI.”
The Missouri statute states that “A person commits the crime of ‘driving while intoxicated’ if he operates a motor vehicle while in an intoxicated or drugged condition.” The phrase “intoxicated condition” is further defined to mean ‘”when he is under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance, or drug, or any combination thereof.”
So, for most practical purposes, driving is operating, and intoxicated is under the influence. I hope this post helps clear up the confusing mix of terms.
One more important note, the courts have interpreted the word “operate” to be broader than simply “driving.”. So, you can be charged in Missouri with “DWI” even if you are not “driving” a car! More on this topic in this post.