Facing a DWI charge in Arkansas can be daunting. The legal system can be complex from the moment of arrest to the potential consequences of a conviction. Having an attorney assist is crucial for effectively navigating each stage and ensuring that the defendant’s rights are protected.
A DWI Stop and Arrest
When a person is stopped and arrested for a DWI (driving while intoxicated) in Arkansas, the officer must have probable cause for pulling them over or taking them into custody.
Probable cause may include, but is not limited to, any of the following:
- Noticing erratic driving
- Observing the driver's behavior
- Smelling alcohol on the driver's breath
Once the driver is pulled over, the officer may subject them to field sobriety tests and a roadside breath test. These tests are optional and are used to justify an arrest.
If the officer has probable cause to believe the driver is intoxicated, they will place the individual under arrest and take them to the police station for further testing. At the police station, the driver may be asked to submit a specimen for a blood, breath, or urine test to determine their blood alcohol concentration (BAC).
It's essential to cooperate with the arresting officer and not resist or become argumentative. Remember, though: individuals have the right to remain silent, which can prevent them from saying anything that could be used in court. While, for the most part, individuals can stay quiet, they must provide the officer with their personal information, such as name, address, and driver's license number.
Booking and Bail
After a DWI arrest, the next step is booking. This involves being taken to a police station or jail and being processed as an arrested individual.
The booking process usually involves the following:
- Personal information: The arrested individual will be asked for personal information, such as name, address, and date of birth.
- Fingerprinting: The arrested individual's fingerprints will be taken and added to a database.
- Mugshot: A mugshot is a photograph of the individual's face and is used for identification purposes.
- Confiscation of personal items: The individual's personal items, such as wallet, jewelry, and phone, will be confiscated and stored for safekeeping.
- Search: The arrested individual may be searched for contraband or illegal substances.
Following the booking process, the arrested individual may be eligible for bail. Bail is a monetary amount that must be paid to the court to secure the individual's release from jail until their trial date. The purpose of bail is to ensure that the individual shows up for their court date.
The judge determines the bail amount based on several factors, including the likelihood of the individual appearing for court, their criminal history, and their risk to the community. The judge may also consider the severity of the DWI offense and whether the individual has previous convictions for similar violations.
Administrative Driver’s License Suspension
In Arkansas, if a driver is arrested for a DWI, their driver's license may be suspended administratively before the criminal case is resolved. The administrative driver's license suspension is separate from the criminal case and can be challenging to navigate.
The administrative driver's license suspension process begins when the arresting officer takes the driver's license and issues a notice of suspension.
If the driver wishes to challenge the suspension, they can request a hearing within seven days of receiving the notice. The Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) will conduct the hearing.
The scope of the administrative hearing is limited to two issues:
- Whether the officer had reasonable grounds to believe the driver was operating a vehicle while intoxicated.
- Whether the driver refused to take a chemical test to determine their blood alcohol concentration (BAC).
If the driver's license is suspended administratively, they may be eligible for a restricted driver's license, which allows them to drive for specific purposes, such as work or school.
The administrative driver's license suspension process is separate from the criminal case. The outcome of the administrative hearing does not impact the criminal case, and vice versa.
The Criminal Trial
The DWI criminal trial process in Arkansas typically involves several steps, which are outlined below:
- Arraignment: The first step in the criminal trial process is an arraignment. At this stage, the defendant is informed of the charges against them and asked to enter a guilty or not guilty plea.
- Pre-trial motions: After the arraignment, the defense and prosecution may file pre-trial motions to request certain evidence or seek clarification on legal issues related to the case.
- Discovery: The defense and prosecution exchange information and evidence related to the case during discovery. This includes police reports, witness statements, and other documents or information that may be used at trial.
- Plea bargaining: At any point in the trial process, the defense and prosecution may engage in plea bargaining. This involves negotiating a plea deal, typically involving the defendant pleading guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for a reduced sentence.
- Jury selection: A pool of potential jurors is selected. Both the defense and prosecution can question the potential jurors to determine if they are impartial and can make a fair decision.
- Opening statements: Once the jury is selected, the defense and prosecution present their opening remarks to outline their case.
- Presentation of evidence: The prosecution presents evidence, including witness testimony, physical evidence, and any other evidence relevant to the case. The defense has the opportunity to present its evidence and witnesses.
- Closing arguments: After all evidence has been presented, the prosecution and defense give closing arguments.
- Jury deliberation: The jury then deliberates and decides whether or not the defendant is guilty.
- Sentencing: If the defendant is found guilty, the judge will sentence them. The sentence may include fines, community service, probation, and/or jail time.
Call an Attorney for Help with Your Case
Understanding the legal process for a DWI is crucial for individuals facing charges, as it can significantly impact the outcome of their case. From the initial arrest to the sentencing phase, multiple steps are involved, each requiring careful consideration and preparation.
Seek the guidance of an experienced criminal defense attorney who understands the intricacies of the legal system and can help you through your case. A lawyer can give legal advice, explain your options, and defend you in court.To discuss your case with one of our Northwest Arkansas lawyers, contact Norwood & Norwood, P.A. at (479) 235-4600.