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Can You Be Charged with an Underage DUI in Arkansas?

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Can You Be Charged with an Underage DUI in Arkansas?

Arkansas has a law referred to as driving or boating under the influence while underage. As the legal drinking age in the state is 21 years of age and older, the law applies to anyone under that age who consumes alcohol and/or drugs and gets behind the wheel. In short, you can get an underage DUI in Arkansas.

Section 5-65-303 of the Arkansas Code specifies that a person commits an underage DUI when they operate or are in physical control of a vehicle and they are either under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs or they have an alcohol concentration at or above 0.02 but less than 0.08.

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How Is an Underage DUI Different from a Regular DWI?

The statutes concerning underage DUIs and regular DWIs are distinguished in several ways. First, as the term implies, a person can only be charged with an underage DUI if they are under 21 years of age.

Second, the level of impairment differs for underage drivers and those 21 years of age or older. An underage DUI violation occurs when the driver is under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. In contrast, a DWI violation occurs when a driver is intoxicated by alcohol and/or drugs.

The distinction between "under the influence" and "intoxicated" is made in A.C.A. § 5-65-102 as follows:

  • Under the influence means that the driver's normal faculties (for example, motor skills or judgment) are even slightly affected by alcohol or drugs. As such, underage driver puts themselves or others at risk of injury or death.
  • Intoxicated means that the driver's normal faculties are substantially altered. Therefore, they or others are at substantial risk of being injured or killed because the individual gets behind the wheel while impaired.

Third, the legal alcohol concentration limit differs between underage DUIs and regular DWIs. A person could be accused of an underage DUI if their alcohol concentration is at or above 0.02 but less than 0.08. With a regular DWI, the alcohol concentration is 0.08 or higher.

To illustrate the difference in alcohol concentration limits, an underage driver can commit a DUI if they have consumed any alcohol. In contrast, a person 21 years of age or older commits an offense if they've had a few drinks.

Just a small note: We say a "few drinks," but that is just speaking generally. Various factors can affect a person's alcohol concentration level, such as age, body type, and gender. Therefore, even one drink could elevate a person's alcohol concentration level under certain conditions.

Although differences exist between a DWI and an underage DUI, a person under 21 years of age can still be charged with a regular DWI (but as mentioned before, the opposite is not true) if they operated a vehicle while intoxicated or with an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher.

What Are the Penalties for an Underage DUI?

In Arkansas, an underage DUI is an unclassified misdemeanor. The penalties imposed for a conviction depend on whether this is the person's first or subsequent offense.

First-time violators can be fined $100 to $500.

Second-time violators can be:

  • Fined $200 to $1,000 and
  • Sentenced to 30 days of public service work

Third-time or subsequent violators can be:

  • Fined $500 to $2,500 and
  • Sentenced to 60 days of public service work

To compare the penalties for an underage DUI with those for a regular DWI, a first DWI offense, also an unclassified misdemeanor is punishable by 24 hours to 1 year in jail and/or $150 to $1,000 in fines.

Can You Lose Your Driver's License for an Underage DUI?

Yes, an underage driver could have their driving privileges suspended or revoked in two ways. The first is if the arresting officer had reasonable cause to believe that they were operating a vehicle while under the influence. The second is if they refused a chemical test.

In either case, the arresting officer will take the person's driver's license and issue a temporary driving permit valid for only 30 days. The individual has 20 days to request a hearing and challenge the full suspension or revocation of their driving privileges.

If the challenge is unsuccessful, the Office of Driver Services will suspend or revoke the individual's driver's license as follows:

  • 90 days for a first offense
  • 1 year for a second offense
  • 3 years or until the driver reaches 21 years of age for a third or subsequent offense

Before driving privileges can be reinstated, the driver must:

  • Complete an alcohol and driving education program for underage drivers (they are responsible for covering the cost for the course, which can be up to $125),
  • Pay an additional $25 fee, and
  • Pay a reinstatement fee

The consequences of driving under the influence when underage can have serious impacts on your future. At Norwood & Norwood, P.A., we are here to help fight your charge and protect your rights and driving privileges.

Whether you have been accused of a DUI or DWI in Northwest Arkansas, please reach out to us for the legal representation you need. Call or submit an online contact form today.