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What Are the Arkansas DWI Laws?

Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, also known as driving while intoxicated (DWI), is against the law in Arkansas and carries tough penalties. Arkansas DWI laws cover limits and rules for testing blood alcohol levels, suspension or revocation of driver's licenses, and penalties for operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated.

Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Limits in Arkansas

In Arkansas, if a driver's BAC reaches 0.08% or higher, the person is driving while intoxicated. This is called a "per se" BAC limit DWI law which means that there isn't a need for any other evidence to support a DWI conviction.

For drivers under the legal drinking age of 21 years old, the BAC limit is 0.02%. This is called a "zero tolerance law" and is intended to curb and punish underage drinking and driving.

Implied Consent

Like many other states, Arkansas has what is known as an "implied consent" law which means that simply operating a motor vehicle in the state implies consent to a chemical analysis of the driver's blood, breath, or urine for detection of alcohol, drugs, or other controlled substances. If the chemical analysis is refused, driving privileges can be suspended.

Criminal Penalties

Along with administrative penalties such as a license revocation or suspension, the criminal penalties for a DWI conviction in Arkansas include:

  • First offense: punishable by up to 1 year in prison and up to $1,000 in fines. In lieu of a prison sentence the court may order 30 days of community service.
  • Second offense within 5 years after first offense: punishable by up to 1 year in prison and up to $3,000 in fines. In lieu of a prison sentence the court may order 60 days of community service.
  • Third offense within 5 years after first offense: punishable by up to 1 year in prison and up to $5,000 in fines. In lieu of a prison sentence the court may order 90 days of community service.
  • Fourth offense within 5 years after first offense: a felony punishable by up to 6 years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines. In lieu of a prison sentence the court may order 1 year of community service.
  • Fifth offense within 5 years after first offense: a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines. In lieu of a prison sentence the court may order 2 years of community service.

The above penalties may be enhanced if the drunk driving results in an accident, property damage, or death.

Administrative Penalties and License Suspensions

Arkansas' DWI laws permit an automatic suspension of a person's driver's license upon a first offense. A first time DWI offense may cause a driver's license to be suspended for six months.

However, if an ignition interlock device is allowed by the Office of Driver Services, a restricted license may be issued. A restricted license limits driving to the following places: to and from work, school, an alcohol or drug abuse treatment program, or an ignition interlock device service center. An ignition interlock device requires that the driver blow into the device to test their BAC. If the BAC is above a certain level, the driver's car won't start.

For a second or third DWI offense within 5 years of the first offense, the driver's license may be suspended for 24 or 30 months, respectively. If an ignition interlock device is allowed, then the license is suspended for at least 45 days. Thereafter, the driver has a restricted license for the balance of the 24 or 30 month period.

For a fourth DWI offense within 5 years of the first offense, the driver's license may be suspended for 4 years.

For each offense, the driver must also complete an alcohol education program.

Getting Legal Help

DWI laws can be confusing. If you've been arrested or charged with DWI, you should consult with an Arkansas DWI attorney who can counsel you on your rights and responsibilities as a driver.

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