Arkansas’s DWI Laws and Conviction Penalties

The consequences of a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd DWI in Arkansas.

Arkansas's driving while intoxicated (DWI) (also called "DUI") laws prohibit operating a vehicle while impaired by drugs and/or alcohol. This article outlines exactly how the law defines a DWI and the penalties a convicted driver might face.

Arkansas's DWI Laws

To convict a driver of DWI in court, prosecutors must prove the driver was operating or in actual physical control of a vehicle:

In other words, a DWI conviction can be based on BAC or alcohol impairment.

What It Means to be "Driving" a Vehicle Under Arkansas's DWI Laws

Traveling down the interstate certainly qualifies as "operating" a vehicle under Arkansas's DWI laws, but the laws also cover being in "actual physical control" of a vehicle. Actual physical control doesn't require driving or that the vehicle be in motion.

Actual control has been interpreted broadly to include anyone who is able to exert immediate control over the vehicle. For example, an impaired person sleeping in the driver's seat of a running car has been found by Arkansas courts to be in actual control of the vehicle, as was a driver steering a non-running vehicle being pushed down the road.

Proof of Intoxication for a DWI Offense in Arkansas

Generally, a driver is considered "intoxicated" and can be convicted of a DWI offense if his or her reactions, motor skills, and judgment are substantially altered due to any intoxicating substance, or

Holding a physician's prescription for an intoxicating substance (such as medical marijuana or benzodiazepines) is not a defense to intoxicated driving.

Penalties for a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd DWI in Arkansas

The penalties for a DWI in Arkansas are set by statute and depend primarily on the number of prior offenses the driver has that occurred within in the last ten years.

Jail, Fines, and Community Service for Arkansas DWI Convictions

Generally, first, second, and third DWI convictions are misdemeanors.

The chart below outlines the range of jail time and fines for a first, second, and third DWI conviction in Arkansas.

1st Offense

2nd Offense

3rd Offense

Jail

24 hours to 1 year

7 days to 1 year

90 days to 1 year

Fines

$150 to $1,000

$400 to $3,000

$900 to $5,000

Substance Abuse Evaluations for Arkansas DWI Offenders

Prior to sentencing for a DWI conviction, the driver must complete a drug and alcohol evaluation. The court will review the evaluation results and can order the offender to complete drug education classes, treatment, or other rehabilitate programs.

All suspended drivers must also obtain their treatment completion certificate in order to reinstate their driving privileges.

Enhanced DWI Penalties for Having Minor Passengers

A DWI that involves passengers under the age of 16 years old will carry a minimum jail sentence of seven days for a first offense, 30 days for a second offense, and 120 days for a third offense.

Arkansas DWI Probation

Judges generally place DWI offenders on probation as part of the sentence. While on probation, offenders must comply with certain requirements (such as treatment and maintaining sobriety). Failure to comply can result in additional jail time.

Generally, offenders must serve the minimum required jail penalty before being placed on probation.

Arkansas Felony DWI Penalties

A fourth or subsequent DWI conviction in ten years will be considered a felony in Arkansas. Here are the penalties for a fourth, fifth, and sixth DWI conviction.

4th offense

5th offense

6th offense

Prison

1 to 6 years

2 to 10 years

5 to 20 years

Fines

$900 to $5,000

$900 to $5,000

Up to $15,000

Prison (if DWI with passenger under 16)

2 to 6 years

3 to 10 years

5 to 20 years

A felony DWI will also result in a minimum four-year license revocation.

License-Related Penalties for Arkansas DWI Offenses

A DWI will typically lead to license-related penalties. These penalties vary depending on the driver's BAC and the number of prior DWI-related incidents (qualifying priors include DWI convictions and test refusals) within the last five years.

License-related penalties can result from a DWI arrest and/or conviction.

Arkansas's Implied Consent Law

Arkansas's "implied consent" law generally requires all drivers who are lawfully arrested for driving under the influence to submit to breath or blood testing when requested to do so by an officer. How a driver decides to respond to this request will determine the driver's license consequences.

Refusing a Chemical Test in Arkansas

When a driver refuses to take an alcohol or drug test as required by the implied consent law, the officer will seize the driver's license and will notify the Office of Driver Services (ODS). The driver's license will be suspended for:

  • 180 days for a first offense
  • two years if the driver has one prior refusal or DWI conviction within the last five years, and
  • three years if the driver has two prior refusals and/or DWI convictions within the last five years.

Also, prosecutors can usually use the fact that a driver refused testing in court while trying to prove a DWI charge.

Failing a Chemical Test in Arkansas

A driver who submits to testing and produces a BAC above the legal limit will generally be arrested and the results can be used against them in court (to prove a DWI charge). However, the test results themselves will not result in any immediate license revocation or seizure.

In other words, failing the breath test will only result in license suspension if you are convicted of DWI.

License Revocation for DWI Convictions in Arkansas

All DWI convictions result in driver's license suspension. The ODS will suspend the driver's license for:

  • six months for a first DWI conviction
  • 24 months for a second DWI conviction within the last five years, and
  • 30 months for a third DWI conviction within the last five years.

Offenders must complete a treatment program to be eligible for license reinstatement.

Arkansas's Ignition Interlock Device (IID) Requirements

Generally, an ignition interlock device (IID) is required for a DWI conviction only if ordered by the judge or as a condition for obtaining a restricted driver's license.

However, the installation of an IID is mandatory for felony DWI convictions after the offender has finished the revocation period.

Getting a Restricted License in Arkansas After a DWI Revocation

Suspended and revoked drivers can generally apply to the ODS for a restricted IID license. A restricted license generally comes with limits on when and where the holder can drive and requires the installation of an IID.

Substance Abuse Programs and Victim Impact Panels for DWI Offenders

All drivers who are suspended for a DWI conviction or a test refusal must complete a certified alcohol education program or treatment program provided by the Arkansas Department of Human Services. The completion certificate must be presented to the ODS in order to reinstate driving privileges after the suspension period.

Suspended drivers must also attend a victim impact panel. These are generally presentations and speeches given by people who have been injured or lost loved ones due to impaired driving.

Arkansas's Underage UDD (Underage Drinking and Driving) Laws

In Arkansas, drivers who are under 21 years of age are prohibited from driving with a BAC of .02% or more. The penalties for underage drinking and driving (UDD) are generally less severe than those for a standard DWI but will include:

  • First offense. Fines of $100 to $500, a 90-day license suspension, and an alcohol and driving education course.
  • Second offense. Fines of $200 to $1,000, 30 days of community service, a one-year license suspension, and an alcohol and driving education course.
  • Third offense. Fines of $500 to $2,000, 60 days of community service, complete license revocation (three years or until 21 years old), and an alcohol and driving education course.

If the underage driver has a BAC of .08% or more or is legally impaired, he or she can instead be charged with a standard DWI violation.

Talk with an Arkansas DWI Lawyer

If you've been arrested for driving while under the influence in Arkansas, you should get in contact with a qualified DWI attorney in your area. An experienced DWI lawyer can help you understand how the law applies in your case and advise you on how best to handle your situation.

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