Arkansas DWI Laws, Penalties & Fines

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Arkansas defines driving while intoxicated (DWI) as driving or being in physical control of a vehicle or motorboat with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or above, according to Arkansas Code Annotated (ACA) Section 5-65-103. The penalties for an Arkansas DWI include incarceration; a fine; driver’s license suspension; installation of an ignition interlock device (IID); completion of a victim impact panel (VIP); alcohol evaluation; and attendance at an alcohol education or treatment program.

A first, second or third DWI is an unclassified misdemeanor, according to ACA Section 5-65-111. A fourth DWI is an unclassified felony. An unclassified crime is one with a sentence limited by the criminal statute related to the offense. In other states a DWI may be called a DUI (driving under the influence) or an OUI (operating under the influence).

Penalties for a First Arkansas DWI

Penalties for a first-time offense include between one day and one year of jail time; a fine between $150 and $1,000; six months driver’s license suspension; six months IID installation; completion of a victim impact panel; alcohol evaluation; and attendance at an alcohol treatment or education program, according to ACA Sections 5-65-104, 5-65-111 and 5-65-115. A court may require an individual to complete community service instead of jail time.

The period of incarceration is increased to between seven days and one year if a passenger under 16 was in the vehicle or motorboat during the offense.

A judge may not place a person on probation prior to an adjudication of guilt for a DWI conviction. In addition, a judge may not impose probation as a penalty for a DWI. Yet the court may use post-conviction probation to supervise an individual convicted of a DWI, according to ACA Section 5-65-108. This allows the court to make sure that the individual is attending alcohol safety classes and paying their fine.

First Offense IID Waiver

A first offender may petition the court to waive the requirement to install an IID under one or more of three conditions, according to ACA Section 5-65-118:

  • First condition: The offender must operate an employer’s vehicle in the course and scope of employment and the offender does not own or control the company that owns the vehicle.
  • Second condition: The offender is certified by a medical doctor as being unable to provide a deep lung breath sample for analysis by an IID.
  • Third condition: A state-certified IID provider is not available within 100 miles of the offender’s residence.

Arkansas First Offender Act

A first offender can plead guilty or no contest (nolo contendere) to a DWI under the Arkansas First Offender Act, also known as Act 346, according to ACA Section 16-93-301 and following sections. After a period of probation, a judge will dismiss and expunge the charge against the first offender. This act can only be used once.

Penalties for a Second Arkansas DWI

Penalties for a second offense include between seven days and one year of jail time; a fine between $400 and $3,000; community service; two years driver’s license suspension; two years IID installation; completion of a victim impact panel; alcohol evaluation; and attendance at an alcohol education or treatment program, according to ACA Sections 5-65-104, 5-65-111 and 5-65-115.

A judge may require an individual to complete community service instead of jail time. The period of incarceration is increased to between 30 days and one year if a passenger under 16 was in the vehicle or motorboat during the offense.

If the court orders community service instead of imprisonment, the term of community service must be 30 days minimum under regular circumstances and 60 days minimum if a passenger under 16 was in the vehicle or motorboat during the offense.

Penalties for a Third Arkansas DWI

Penalties for a third offense include between 90 days and one year of jail time; a fine between $900 and $5,000; 30 months driver’s license suspension; 30 months IID installation; completion of a victim impact panel; alcohol evaluation; and attendance at an alcohol education or treatment program, according to ACA Sections 5-65-104, 5-65-111 and 5-65-115. A court may require an individual to complete community service instead of jail time.

The period of incarceration is increased to between 120 days and one year if a passenger under 16 was in the vehicle or motorboat during the offense.

If the court orders community service instead of imprisonment, the term of community service must be 90 days minimum under normal circumstances and 120 days minimum if a passenger under 16 was in the vehicle or motorboat during the offense.

Arkansas DWI Look-back Period

Arkansas’ look-back period for a DWI is five years. A second offense will be considered as one that was within five years of the first offense. A third offense will be considered as one that was within five years of the first offense, according to ACA Section 5-65-112.

Arkansas Underage DUI

Arkansas defines driving under the influence as a minor, or “underage DUI,” as an individual under 21 who is driving a vehicle or operating a motorboat with a BAC of between 0.02 and 0.079 percent. An underage DUI is an unclassified misdemeanor, according to ACA Section 5-65-303. An individual who is under 21 and drives or operates a motorboat with a BAC of 0.08 percent or above can be charged with a standard DWI.

Underage DUI Conviction Penalties

Penalties for a first underage DUI include a fine between $100 and $500; 90-day driver’s license suspension; alcohol evaluation; and completion of a driving education or alcoholism treatment program for underage drivers, according to ACA Sections 5-65-304, 5-65-305 and 5-65-307.

Penalties for a second underage DUI include a fine between $200 and $1,000; one year driver’s license suspension; alcohol evaluation; and completion of a driving education or alcoholism treatment program for underage drivers.

Penalties for a third underage DUI include a fine between $500 and $2,000; three years driver’s license revocation or until age 21, whichever is longer; alcohol evaluation; and completion of a driving education or alcoholism treatment program for underage drivers. A court may order an underage DUI offender to perform community service. The term of community service must be 30 days minimum for a second underage DUI and 60 days minimum for a third or subsequent underage DUI, according to ACA Section 5-65-306.

Refusal to Take a Chemical Test

For a driver age 21 or above, the penalties for a first refusal to take a chemical or breath test when asked by an arresting officer include a 180-day driver’s license suspension. Penalties for a second refusal within five years include two years driver’s license suspension. Penalties for a third refusal to test within five years include three years driver’s license revocation, according to ACA Section 5-65-205.

A conviction for refusing to submit to a breathalyzer or chemical test, or a suspension or revocation of driving privileges for an arrest for refusal when the person was later acquitted of the charge, are considered prior offenses.

For an underage driver (under 21), the penalties for refusing to take a test are the same as those for an underage DUI. These are 90-day driver’s license suspension for a first offense, one year driver’s license suspension for a second offense, and three year driver’s license revocation or until age 21, whichever is longer, for a third offense, according to ACA Section 5-65-310.

DWI Specialty Courts

Arkansas has 14 DWI courts, according to the Arkansas Judiciary specialty courts. These courts require participants to complete substance abuse treatment and to refrain from alcohol and drug use. DWI court is a one-year program that accepts offenders charged with a second or third DWI. The advantage of DWI court is that the court can suspend a mandatory jail sentence like the 90-day minimum for a third DWI.

Restricted Driver's License

The term “restricted license” can refer to an IID-restricted license or a restricted driving permit. An IID-restricted license mandates that the offender drive only in a vehicle equipped with an IID. An offender with a first, second or third DWI can drive with an IID-restricted license, according to ACA Section 5-65-118.

A restricted driving permit is available only to first offenders. This permit allows an individual to travel between their home, workplace, school, substance abuse treatment program and hospital. A restricted driving permit states the specific times and circumstances under which the individual is permitted to drive. This permit is available only for drivers who do not have another adequate means of transportation to get to necessary locations, according to ACA Section 5-65-120.

Arkansas Vehicle Registration Suspension

When an individual’s driving privilege is suspended or revoked for a second or subsequent offense within the past five years, the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) will suspend that party’s registration of motor vehicles owned or co-owned by that person. The suspension period will last as long as the suspension of the individual’s driving privilege or for one year, whichever is longer, not to exceed five years.

An individual has a right to an administrative hearing within 20 days regarding the suspension of the vehicle registration. A family member or co-owner can be granted a restricted registration of the vehicle if that person is completely dependent on the vehicle for necessities of life, according to DFA information regarding the DUI/DWI Administrative Hearing.

Expungement of DWI Record

An individual can file a petition to seal their record of a DWI conviction five years after they have completed their sentence, paid court costs, paid their driver’s license suspension reinstatement fees and completed all other driver’s license reinstatement requirements, according to ACA Section 16-90-1405. There is no limit to the number of times a person may file a petition to seal the record of their misdemeanor, except as provided in the statute. The laws relating to expungement are known collectively as the Comprehensive Criminal Record Sealing Act of 2013.

No Reduction of a DWI Charge

In Arkansas, an individual arrested for DWI cannot request that their charges be reduced or dismissed, according to ACA Section 5-65-107. This means an individual cannot request a DWI charge be reduced to a reckless driving charge. Further, when a law enforcement officer issues a citation for a DWI, the officer is expected to file the citation with the court as soon as possible.

Arkansas Defines Motor Vehicle Liberally

Arkansas considers an all-terrain vehicle or a vehicle for agricultural use like a tractor to be a motor vehicle, according to ACA Section 5-65-102. The state would also define a scooter for adult use or a golf cart as a motor vehicle. Arkansas does not consider a motor-powered bicycle that travels less than 20 mph or a riding lawnmower not operated on a public roadway as a motor vehicle.

Out-of-State DWIs and Nonresident Drivers

Arkansas will consider an out-of-state offense involving drinking and driving as a DWI or DUI if the law under which the individual was convicted was substantially similar to Arkansas DWI or DUI laws. This means that an out-of-state DWI or DUI counts as a prior drunk driving offense for sentencing, as well as under the Arkansas First Offender Act. When an offender engaging in drunk driving is not an Arkansas resident, the state may suspend or revoke the individual’s privilege of driving a motor vehicle on the highways of the state, according to ACA Section 27-16-908.