DWI vs. DUI: Justin Timberlake’s arrest charge explained

Justin Timberlake was arrested early Tuesday and accused of driving while intoxicated on New York’s Long Island, authorities said.

The pop star was charged with one DWI count, with a court date scheduled for July 26, the Suffolk County district attorney’s office said.

But what is the difference between a DUI (Driving Under the Influence) and a DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) offense, and what do those differences mean for Timberlake?

Experts say the differences are subtle. 


(Credit: Sag Harbor Police Department)


According to Kraut Law Group, based in California, the terms DUI and DWI are often used interchangeably to describe driving offenses in which the driver was impaired or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. 

Whether this type of offense is referred to as a "DUI" or a "DWI" usually depends on what state the offense occurred, as the laws regarding impaired driving differ in all 50 states, and states often use their own terminology.

For example, the state of New York, where Timberlake was arrested, does not use the term DUI. Instead, the two main drunk driving offenses in New York are DWI and DWAI. 

In the state of New York, a DWI is given to a driver with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of over .08 %, according to New York's Jason Bassett Law.

Could Justin Timberlake serve jail time with DWI?

According to Jason Bassett Law, the consequences for being convicted of violating the laws against driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs or DWI in the state of New York can include a suspended or revoked driver’s license, monetary fines, and even a potential jail sentence. 


Sag Harbor Police Headquarters. Justin Timberlake was arrested and arraigned on June 18 on charges of driving while intoxicated in Sag Harbor. (Credit: ADAM GRAY/AFP via Getty Images)

The severity of the penalties depends on, among other things, the level of the charge and whether or not it is the first offense. The law firm said having a previous conviction for drunk driving offenses typically results in steeper possible penalties. 

For a first-time DWI offense in the state of New York, depending on the circumstances, someone can face fines of between $500 and $1000, a revoked driver’s license for at least 6 months, 3 years of probation or up to 12 months of jail time.

Justin Timberlake DWI arrest

While driving in the early morning hours of June 18, Timberlake blew a stop sign and failed to keep to the right of the road, according to court documents obtained by FOX 5 NY's Jodi Goldberg.

According to the paperwork, Timberlake told officers he had one martini before getting in a car to follow friends back to their Hamptons lodging. Sources said he was partying at Sag Harbor's American hotel.

READ MORE: Justin Timberlake arrested on Long Island, charged with DWI: What police docs show

He was pulled over by an officer driving a 2025 BMW UT with Florida plates at Madison Street and Germain Avenue in Sag Harbor, a small village about 100 miles east of New York City.

Timberlake handed over his Tennessee driver’s license and, according to court papers, he was visibly intoxicated with bloodshot eyes, a strong smell of alcohol and performed poorly on his field sobriety tests. He refused to take a chemical test.

Timberlake's friends allegedly came over to the police and asked officers to cut the pop star a break, but the officers refused, according to TMZ. TMZ says there is body camera video of the incident, but it's unclear if it will be released.

This story was reported from Los Angeles.