Arkansas's DWI Law and Driving Under the Influence of Drugs

Learn about the penalties for drugged or high driving in Arkansas.

Like all states, Arkansas prohibits driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol (called "driving while intoxicated" (DWI) in Arkansas). But there's sometimes confusion as to how the state's DWI laws apply to drugs, especially the legal and medical use of marijuana and other prescription medications.

This article explains how Arkansas law defines drugged driving and how legal drug use can lead to DWI charges.

How Drug Use Can Lead to a DWI Conviction in Arkansas

Arkansas prohibits driving or being in actual physical control of a vehicle while intoxicated. For purposes of the DWI laws, "intoxicated" means that the driver's reactions, motor skills, and judgment are substantially altered due to alcohol or drug use.

How Arkansas Prosecutors Prove a Drivers was Intoxicated by Drugs

Arkansas doesn't have a testing threshold for the consumption of controlled substances (such as an ng/ml limit for consumed THC) like some other states. So, in order to get a DUI conviction for drugged driving, the prosecutor must prove the driver's abilities were substantially altered.

During a DWI investigation, the officer will typically note indicators of intoxication such as the driver's appearance, balance, speech, and eye movements. The prosecutor might then use the officer's testimony along with chemical test results (like blood test results) and expert testimony to prove intoxication.

Drugs and Intoxicating Substances that Can Lead to a DWI in Arkansas

The substantial impairment required to prove intoxication can be caused by the ingestion of alcohol, controlled substances, or other intoxicants. The list includes substances like chemical inhalants and illegal drugs like cocaine but also many prescription drugs such as medical marijuana and benzodiazepines.

A Doctor's Prescription Isn't a Defense to a DWI Charge in Arkansas

The fact that the driver had a valid prescription for a medication isn't a legally valid excuse for intoxicated driving. However, a judge or prosecutor might be more lenient if a driver can show their intoxication was caused by a prescription medication taken as prescribed.

Arkansas's Drug DWI Penalties

The penalties for drugged driving are the same as those for drunk driving and are based on the number of prior DWI offenses within the last 5 years.

Jail Time, Fines, and License Suspension for Drug DWIs in Arkansas

1st Offense

2nd Offense

3rd Offense


24 hours to 1 year

7 days to 1 year

90 days to 1 year


$150 to $1,000

$400 to $3,000

$900 to $5,000

License Suspension

6 months

24 months

30 months

Substance Abuse Evaluations for Arkansas DWI Offenders

The offender must also complete a substance abuse evaluation, which the court can consider in setting the penalties and deciding whether drug education classes, treatment, or other programs are appropriate for the offender.

Getting a Restricted License in Arkansas Following a DWI Suspension

If the driver's license suspension results in hardship, the driver can apply for a restricted license. This type of license can be used to go to and from places like work and school but might require the use of an ignition interlock device.

Reinstating Your Arkansas Driver's License Following a DWI Suspension

After the suspension period, the driver must provide a treatment complete certificate prior to license reinstatement.

Talk to an Arkansas DWI Attorney

The consequences of a DWI are serious. If you've been arrested for driving under the influence in Arkansas, you should get in contact with a DWI lawyer as soon as possible. A qualified DWI attorney can tell you how the law applies to the facts of your case, let you know if you have any defenses to the charges, and help you decide how best to handle your situation.

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