What are the penalties for a DUI conviction in Arkansas?

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Things to remember...
  • The legal limit for blood alcohol content in Arkansas is .08
  • Under Arkansas law the first three DWI convictions are moving violations, the fourth is a felony
  • Arkansas law has a five-year look-back for DWI convictions


Every state, including Arkansas, continuously takes steps to prevent drunk driving. It’s not hard to understand why there was an alcohol-related traffic fatality once every 51 minutes during 2015.

Arkansas law intends to limit these fatalities through driving while intoxicated (DWI) laws that bar the operation of a motor vehicle while a driver’s blood alcohol content is .08 or above.

The penalties for each violation get more severe with each additional conviction including both possible incarceration and loss of driving privileges. Compare rates with our free quote tool above today to make sure you are getting the best rate!

What is the legal limit for driving while intoxicated in Arkansas?

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In Arkansas, the DWI statute is two-pronged. First, it is unlawful in general for an intoxicated person to operate or be in actual physical control of a motor vehicle.

Second, the law specifically forbids the operation of a motor vehicle for any driver with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or more.

The purpose of this two-pronged approach is to directly outlaw the operating of a motor vehicle with a high blood alcohol content while leaving a catch-all provision that allows for prosecuting an intoxicated driver without a blood alcohol content test result.

What is blood alcohol concentration?

Blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, is a measure of the concentration of alcohol in a person. When alcohol is consumed it absorbs directly into the bloodstream through the lining of the stomach and intestine.

The alcohol continues to accumulate in the bloodstream until it can be metabolized by the liver. The BAC is measured by the weight of the alcohol within a deciliter of blood.

The effects of alcohol on a person are well documented. Alcohol reduces brain function which can hinder thinking and muscle coordination.

Given how critical these abilities are to operating a car it is no wonder that every state has made it illegal to operate a vehicle with a BAC of .08 or above.

Research shows a direct correlation between alcohol-involved auto fatalities and a BAC at or above .08. Over 87 percent of all alcohol-involved fatal accidents have included drivers with a BAC of .08 or more.

What are the penalties for DWI in Arkansas?

The penalties in Arkansas vary depending on how many recent prior DWI convictions a driver has on his or her record at the time the DWI was committed.

While a DWI charge is treated as an unclassified offense similar to a traffic violation initially, enough prior convictions can make it a felony offense. Watch the video above for more information on DUI and the affect on your license.

– First-time Offender

The first DWI offense in Arkansas is an unclassified violation that is treated like a traffic violation but carries penalties closer to a misdemeanor. A first offense carries a fine between $150 and $1,000 and a jail sentence of 24 hours to one year.

This sentence can also be served through public service at the discretion of the court. Many courts will count a night in jail after an arrest as the required 24-hour sentence.

A first DWI conviction will also lead to a six-month suspension of a defendant’s driver’s license. A defendant will also be required to receive an alcohol evaluation and attend a court-ordered treatment program.

– Second-time Offender

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A second conviction of DWI in Arkansas is also an unclassified violation but carries steeper penalties. A second offense carries a fine between $400 and $3,000 and a jail sentence of seven days to one year.

It is within the discretion of the court to allow a defendant to serve the minimum seven-day jail sentence through community service.

A second conviction also comes with a two-year driver’s license revocation. Finally, defendants must agree to an alcohol evaluation and treatment program.

– Third-time Offender

A third conviction for DWI in Arkansas is considered an unclassified violation much like a first or second offense. However, the penalties are much steeper.

A third offense carries a fine between $900 and $5,000 and a jail sentence of 90 days to one year.

The court may issue community service in lieu of jail time. A third offense also carries a 30-month suspension of a driver’s license as well as an alcohol evaluation and treatment program.

– Fourth and Subsequent Offenses

Fourth and subsequent DWI convictions are treated as felonies in Arkansas. Felony DWI convictions carry a fine of $900 to $5,000.

Unlike non-felony convictions, felony DWI convictions carry sentences between one and six years in state prison as opposed to a county jail.

Fourth and subsequent DWI convictions also result in a four-year driver’s license suspension. Finally, a driver must complete an alcohol evaluation and treatment plan.

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How long is a DWI conviction held against a defendant?

While DWI penalties become stiffer with each conviction, Arkansas does not consider every lifetime conviction when calculating how many prior convictions a defendant has. Instead, Arkansas only considers more recent convictions when used to enhance a sentence of a current DWI charge.

The window of time in which the court will count prior convictions against a defendant is known as a “look back” period. In Arkansas, the “look back” period is five years from the date of the most recent DWI.

Is it possible to drive after a DWI?

Every DWI conviction includes lengthy driver’s license suspensions. Arkansas law recognizes the hardship these suspensions can provide as it relates to a defendant’s employment and does provide for the possibility of legally driving during the suspension if some conditions are met.

Arkansas law also has a number of requirements for reinstating a license after a suspension is over, including obtaining SR-22 insurance.

– What is the procedure for a DWI license suspension?

The effects of a DWI apply to a defendant’s license immediately upon arrest. At the time of the arrest, the arresting officer will confiscate the license and give the driver a receipt and a Notice of Suspension.

The notice allows the driver to drive for 30 days after the arrest to allow them to get their affairs in order. After the 30 days is over the DWI suspension officially begins. This is true even if the driver hasn’t been convicted yet.

The notice also gives the driver seven days to appeal the suspension to Arkansas Driver Control. The notice also explains the process for obtaining an interlock device and reinstating a license.

– Obtaining an Interlock Device During a DWI Suspension in Arkansas

Arkansas Driver Control has the ability to grant hardship waivers to drivers who have lost their license to a DWI suspension.

However, these drivers are required to install what is known as an interlock device in their vehicle as a condition of the waiver.

An interlock device is a breathalyzer device that is attached to a vehicle. A driver must blow into the device and register a BAC of 0.0 else the breathalyzer will prevent the vehicle from starting.

– Reinstating a Driver’s License after a DWI Suspension in Arkansas

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Arkansas will allow for a driver’s license to be reinstated once a suspension is completed so long as the driver meets all the necessary requirements.

The driver must have paid all court costs related to the DWI conviction and have no additional alcohol-related charges. Arkansas Driver Control will also require a reinstatement fee to be paid.

The final requirement for reinstatement is for the driver to obtain high-risk SR-22 insurance.

Without the proper insurance coverage, Arkansas will not agree to reinstate a license. SR-22 insurance can be expensive and many insurers do not offer such coverage.

Some insurance carriers offer policies specifically for those convicted of DWI. Given the higher cost of these policies, the best practice is for a driver to compare three or four policies to find the best coverage.

Dealing with a DWI in Arkansas

A DWI charge in Arkansas is a serious issue that carries serious penalties. The law does provide some relief for those who follow the proper steps, however.

Even drivers with multiple DWI convictions have the opportunity to lessen the severity of their driver’s license suspension if they comply with an interlock device and comply with the requirements of the court.

A driver must look beyond the cost of an insurance policy and make certain the SR-22 coverage meets their needs. The best way for a driver to ensure they’ve found the policy that best suits them is to compare three or four policies before purchasing one. Compare policies today with our free quote tool below!

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