Little Rock DUI & DWI Attorney
An arrest for driving while intoxicated (DWI) is one of the most common charges for drivers in Arkansas. Also known as a DUI, it is a common offense that carries some serious penalties. Even a first-time DWI offense carries mandatory jail time and a mandatory license suspension. A simple mistake can lead to a DWI charge, and put your ability to drive at risk, which can affect your job and your livelihood. If you are charged with DUI or DWI in Arkansas, Birc Morledge of Morledge Law Firm in Little Rock, is a highly experienced and qualified DWI or DUI lawyer who can help.
Arkansas DWI Law
Under Arkansas law it is unlawful for any person to operate or be in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while intoxicated. “Intoxicated” means influenced or affected by alcohol, a controlled substance or intoxicant, to such a degree that the driver’s reactions, motor skills and judgement are substantially altered, and the driver constitutes a clear and substantial danger of physical injury to themselves, or others.
Over the Legal Limit
After alcohol is consumed, it is absorbed by the body, mainly through the stomach. Alcohol in the body can show up in a test of the driver’s breath as well as their blood. This concentration of alcohol can be measured by chemical testing machines to determine the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC). It is against the law to drive with a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher.
However, for drivers under the age of 21, Arkansas has a zero tolerance policy towards underage drinking. The limit for underage drivers is only 0.02 percent BAC, which for many people would be triggered by only 1 drink. For drivers of commercial vehicles, the limit is 0.04 percent BAC.
Unlike with most alcohol DWIs, for driver’s arrested under the influence of drugs, there is no threshold limit for per se intoxication, and the decision of whether to arrest the driver will depend on the police officer’s observations. A DWI does not only apply to drivers under the influence of illegal drugs, such as marijuana. It also applies to prescription medication, or even over-the-counter medications if the police officer thinks the driver is altered.
Police Traffic Stop
When a police officer or the highway police pull over a driver, they may be looking for signs of (DUI) intoxicated driving, or any other traffic violation. Common signs of intoxicated driving may include drifting over lanes or across the median, erratic braking, speeding, failure to make a complete stop at a stop sign or traffic light, or driving with the lights off. These traffic violations will usually result in a driver being pulled over for additional investigation. However, any traffic violation including a broken tail light may be cause for stopping a driver.
After a car is pulled over, the police will look for any signs of intoxication to give them probable cause to arrest a driver for a DWI. This may include seeing an open container in the car, slurred speech, the smell of alcohol, bloodshot eyes, and fumbling fingers. While the police may think they have enough evidence to justify an arrest, they will often try to get more evidence, by asking the driver to take field sobriety tests and a field breathalyzer test.
Field Sobriety Tests
While police may use a variety of field sobriety tests, there are three primary standardised field sobriety tests (SFSTs) used by the police to test whether a driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. These are the walk-and-turn test; Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test (HGN); and the one-leg-stand test. Each test has specific instructions, and specific criteria for how to score the driver.
Field sobriety tests are not mandatory in Arkansas, and in many situations, submitting to field sobriety tests can only hurt your case. Even though police rely on these tests, they are not always accurate. Many things, including medical conditions and outside factors may cause a person to fail the test even if they are not intoxicated. On the other hand, an intoxicated driver can pass the test and still be arrested for a DWI.
If the police officer miscalculates the angle when conducting an HGN eye test, you may “fail” the test. If the police officer doesn’t give you the correct instructions before a walk-and-turn test, you may “fail.” If the police officer doesn’t take into account the flashing lights, dark highway, and passing headlights when observing the one-leg-stand test, you may also “fail.” Whether you fail or refuse to take a field sobriety test, the police officer may still arrest you if they suspect you are impaired. Let our DWI or DUI lawyer at Morledge Law Firm of Little Rock help you.
Chemical BAC Testing
Under Arkansas’ Implied Consent Law, in exchange for the privilege of driving on public roads, you have impliedly given your consent to submit to a chemical test. Chemical tests, including breath, blood and urine tests measure the level of alcohol in the body. Refusal to submit to a chemical test will result in an automatic suspension of your license for 180 days, whether you are later found guilty or not. Refusing a chemical test will also mean you cannot get an IID limited license.
Arkansas Drunk Driving Penalties
After a DWI or DUI arrest, the police officer will take the driver’s license, and give them a notice of suspension. The notice will act as a temporary license for 30 days, after which a driver will lose their driving privileges. The notice also informs the driver that they only have 7 days to request an administrative hearing to try and keep their license. After a DWI license suspension, the driver will have to complete a state-approved drug and alcohol education or treatment program, and pay a reinstatement fee of $150.
A conviction for a first DWI will result in a minimum of 24 hours in jail, with a maximum of up to one year in prison. Fines range from $150 to $1,000, and the Office of Motor Vehicles will administratively suspend the driver’s license for six months. In addition, the driver may have to install an ignition interlock device (IID) in their vehicle, to test for clean breath in order to drive.
A second DWI offense within 5 years has increased penalties. A second DWI conviction can mean fines of up to $3,000, jail from 7 days up to a year, and a license suspension for two years. A third DWI conviction may result in fines up to $5,000, imprisonment from 90 days up to a year, and a 30-month license suspension. A fourth DWI is considered a felony, and can result in up to 6 years in prison.
Additional penalties apply if a child under the age of 16 was in the car at the time of the DWI, with a minimum of 7 days in jail on a first DWI conviction.
Drunk Driving Defenses
Morledge Law Firm is an experienced Arkansas DWI criminal defense attorney who understands what it takes to defend their client from drunk driving charges. Your DWI or DUI lawyer will investigate your case, to determine whether there was probable cause to pull you over in the first place; find inaccuracies in chemical testing; and find out where the police officer made a mistake in the field sobriety tests. Morledge Law Firm is a skilled DWI or DUI lawyer with a record of success representing clients charged with DWI or DUI, and will investigate the facts and circumstances surrounding your arrest to give you all available defenses, so you can keep your license and stay out of jail.