What you need to know about DUI as a felony in Arkansas
Arkansas law does not take too kindly to driving under influence (DUI) of alcohol or any other intoxicating substance.
The reasoning behind the law is that drivers owe their passengers (and other road users) a duty of care. Your passengers trust you to be careful on the road and other road users trust you to abide by the rules of the road.
If you’re driving under the influence of alcohol or any intoxicating substance, it can get a tad difficult to justify that trust.
Due to this duty of care, the punishment for drivers found guilty of a DUI can get pretty serious. The most minor infraction can attract punishments of 24 hours to 1-year jail time while more serious infractions attract greater punishment.
What would, however, determine how severe the punishment for a DUI would be is whether it is considered a felony or some lesser category of offence. There’s usually no straightforward answer to this. So it’s useful to consider the issues that would determine if a DUI is a felony in Arkansas.
What is a DUI in Arkansas?
There are two main things that the Arkansas DUI law focuses on: first is driving and the second is intoxication.
Driving, as far as the law is concerned, relates to the physical operation or actual physical control over a vehicle. A vehicle here can include All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) or even a motorboat.
Physical operation of the vehicle means that you’re the one driving. Although, even if you’re not the one at the steering, the law can still see you as “driving” if you’re deemed to have “actual physical control” of the vehicle. That simply means you’re the one with the power to direct where the vehicle goes and what it does.
Intoxication, under the law, means that you have a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) level higher than the legal limit or that your reaction and motor skills are substantially impaired due to consumption of alcohol or a controlled substance.
Under the law, you can get a DUI if you drive a vehicle with a BAC of .08% or higher. It won’t even matter that you were not physically driving the vehicle by yourself. For commercial drivers and persons under the age of 21, the threshold is even lower.
A commercial driver can be picked up on a DUI if their BAC is .04% or higher and a person under 21 can be charged for a DUI with a BAC of .02% or higher.
The Arkansas law is not really concerned about whether your driving was actually impaired at the time. It doesn’t matter that you were not weaving all over the road. If the BAC comes in at over .08% (or even less for a commercial driver or person under the age of 21), you can still get a DUI.
Is DUI a felony?
The straight answer to this question would have to be: it depends. Under Arkansas law, a DUI can be either a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances under which the offence was committed.
A misdemeanor is generally considered a less serious category of offence than a felony. A person charged with a misdemeanor would usually be exposed to a lower maximum punishment than what a felony charge will involve.
Felonies, on the other hand, are considered serious offences. They attract pretty serious punishment compared to misdemeanors and can generally make life a bit more difficult.
Generally, your first DUI will be a misdemeanor but if you offend again in certain circumstances, you may quickly find yourself slapped with a DUI felony charge.
When will a DUI become a felony in Arkansas?
Subsequent convictions for a DUI can get a person very quickly from a misdemeanor to a felony especially if the convictions are frequent.
If the person has been convicted for the 4th time for a DUI, within 5 years of the first conviction, the DUI will generally become a felony and subject to more stringent punishment. Here’s how it works.
- First DUI conviction is usually a misdemeanor. Punishment here ranges from 1 day to 1 year in jail or at least 7 days’ community service.
- A second DUI conviction within 5 years of committing the first offence will also be a misdemeanor. The punishment here is 7 days to 1 year in jail or at least 30 days’ community service.
- A third conviction within 5 years of the first offence will also be a misdemeanor. Although, the punishment here is tougher, with a minimum of 90 days’ jail term and this can rise up to a year. The alternative is at least 90 days’ community service.
- Once a person commits a 4th DUI within 5 years of the first offence, the DUI becomes a felony.
Now, as a felony, the punishment for a DUI becomes much more serious than it was as a misdemeanor. Conviction for a DUI felony attracts 1 to 6 years’ jail time or at least 1 years’ community service. If a person below the age of 16 was in the vehicle at the time, the felony becomes even more serious.
So, while a DUI is not ordinarily a felony, it will become a felony if you are convicted for a 4th DUI within 5 years of committing the first DUI offence.
What can you do if you’re facing a DUI felony charge?
Clearly, a DUI can quickly become a serious offence, especially if you’re up for a felony charge. What can you do if you find yourself having to answer a DUI felony charge?
The first thing you need to do is get in touch with a competent criminal lawyer. Since a DUI falls under the Arkansas laws on crime, you would need a qualified criminal lawyer to advise you on your case and represent you in court.
Having a qualified lawyer on your case can substantially help your chances of responding to the DUI felony charge. If you’re not sure how to go about getting a suitable lawyer or if you want to know more about when a DUI will become a felony, please get in touch with us. We’ll do all we can to help you.