Arkansas’s Boating While Intoxicated Laws

Read about the consequences of boating while intoxicated (BWI) in Arkansas.

Arkansas law prohibits operating or being in actual physical control of a motorboat while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol. The term “motorboat” means “any vessel operated upon water and that is propelled by machinery, whether or not the machinery is the principal source of propulsion.” (Ark. Code Ann. § 5-65-102(5)(A) (2016).) A person can be convicted of boating while intoxicated (BWI) for operating a motorboat while:

  • impaired by drugs, alcohol, or any other intoxicating substance “to such a degree that the driver's reactions, motor skills, and judgment are substantially altered and the driver, therefore, constitutes a clear and substantial danger of physical injury or death to himself or herself or another person,” or
  • having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or greater.

(Ark. Code Ann. §§ 5-65-102(4), 5-65-103 (2016).)

BWI Penalties

The consequences of an Arkansas BWI depend on the circumstances. But generally, a BWI is an “unclassified” misdemeanor, and the possible penalties are:

  • First offense. A first-offense BWI generally carries one day to one year in jail, $100 to $1,000 in fines, and a six-month driver’s license suspension. If, however, the convicted boater had a passenger under the age of 16, the minimum jail time is seven days. Instead of jail, a judge can order an offender to do public service.
  • Second offense. A second-offense BWI generally carries seven days to one year in jail, $400 to $3,000 in fines, and a 24-month driver’s license suspension. If, however, the convicted boater had a passenger under the age of 16, the minimum jail time is 30 days. Instead of jail, a judge can order an offender to do public service for a minimum of 30 days (60 days if there was a passenger under 16 years old).
  • Third offense. A third-offense BWI generally carries 90 days to one year in jail, $900 to $5,000 in fines, and a 30-month driver’s license suspension. If, however, the convicted boater had a passenger under the age of 16, the minimum jail time is 120 days. Instead of jail, a judge can order an offender to do public service for a minimum of 90 days (120 days if there was a passenger under 16 years old).

For purposes of determining whether a BUI is a second or subsequent offense, only prior BUI convictions that occurred within the past five years count. (Ark. Code Ann. §§ 5-65-104, 5-65-111, 5-65-112 (2016).)

In addition to the other penalties, all BWI offenders generally must complete an alcohol education program. (Ark. Code Ann. § 5-65-115 (2016).)

HOW MUCH TIME WOULD YOU ACTUALLY SPEND IN JAIL?

Sentencing law is complex. For example, a statute might list a “minimum” jail sentence that’s longer than the actual amount of time (if any) a defendant will have to spend behind bars. All kinds of factors can affect actual punishment, including credits for good in-custody behavior and jail-alternative work programs.

If you face criminal charges, consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer. An attorney with command of the rules in your jurisdiction will be able to explain the law as it applies to your situation.

Talk to an Attorney

If you’ve been arrested for or charged with boating under the influence in Arkansas, get in contact with an experienced BWI attorney. The facts of every case are different. A good BWI attorney should be able to explain how the law applies to the facts of your case and help you decide on your best course of action.

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