In Arkansas, it is illegal to operate or have actual physical control of a vehicle or motorboat while intoxicated or with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or greater. The term "actual physical control" doesn't require movement or operation but simply having the ability to exert control over the vehicle. The offense is technically called "driving while intoxicated" (DWI) but is often referred to as a "DUI" (driving under the influence).
If the driver has no prior DWI convictions within the last ten years, a DWI conviction is considered a first offense (the lookback period is five years for license-related penalties). A first-offense DWI is a misdemeanor and usually carries several days in jail, a fine, and license suspension.
This article discusses the specific penalties you'll face if convicted of a first DWI in Arkansas.
Jail time. A first-offense DWI carries at least 24 hours imprisonment with a maximum sentence of one year in jail. This minimum increases to seven days in jail if the driver had a passenger who was under 16 years old. However, the judge can order community service in lieu of jail time.
Fines. A person who's convicted of a first DWI faces fines of $150 to $1,000. In addition to fines, drivers may be required to pay reinstatement fees, supervision fees, and treatment costs. (DWI convictions come with lots of hidden costs.)
Pre-sentence report. Before sentencing, the convicted motorist must obtain a drug and alcohol evaluation from the Arkansas Department of Human Services. The judge will review the screening report and may consider the report in deciding on the sentence.
At the time of arrest, the officer will seize the driver's license and issue a temporary permit. After the expiration of the temporary permit, the driver's license will typically be suspended for six months if the driver has no prior DWI suspensions within the last five years.
During this revocation period, the licensee may be able to obtain a restricted license. However, depending on the circumstances, the restricted license might require the use of an ignition interlock device.
The convicted driver is also required to complete an alcohol education or treatment program provided by the Department of Human Services. Unless acquitted for the DWI, the driver must complete the required program to be eligible for license reinstatement.
Drivers who are under the age of 21 at the time of arrest can get an "underage DWI" for operating or being in actual physical control of a car or motorboat while intoxicated or having a BAC of .02% or more (but under .08%). If convicted, the driver will be subject to a 90-day license suspension and a fine of $100 to $500. The underage motorist will also have to complete an accredited alcohol education program.
While you may be hoping to have the DWI charge diverted or dismissed, Arkansas strictly prohibits the dismissal or "pleading down" a DWI charge. Due to the impact that a DWI can have on a person's life and license, it is always best to talk with a qualified DWI attorney to consider one's options.