Bentonville DWI Attorney
Attorney Dowden Is Dedicated to Defending Your Rights
DWIs can be very complicated. This page is designed to be a brief overview of the various stages of a DWI stop, investigation, and arrest. Should you find yourself arrested and charged with DWI, contact an attorney immediately.
Make sure your Bentonville DWI attorney has the knowledge and experience necessary to mount a thorough defense. Don't leave your future to chance.
The Traffic Stop: Probable Cause
Generally speaking, law enforcement is required to have probable cause to make a traffic stop (some exceptions exist). Initial stops for DWIs often include crossing the center line, failure to signal, speeding, equipment violations (brake or license plate lights not working), etc.
There are many defenses for a traffic stop. If a traffic stop is deemed unconstitutional, the DWI will often go away, so knowing what is legal and what is not is very important at this stage.
Initial Observations & Questions
Upon making contact with the driver of a vehicle, officers make observations about the driver that they later use to justify further investigations. The observations will also be documented in their arrest report to support a finding of intoxication.
Observations that are commonly cited in reports include:
- Bloodshot, watery eyes
- Slurred speech
- Odor of alcohol
- "Fumbling" with requested documents (like insurance, driver's license, and registration)
- Trouble answering questions
Officers often ask directly if a driver has been drinking and if so, how much. Contrary to popular belief, these questions DO NOT require the driver be read their Miranda rights. Depending on the observations made and the answers to the questions asked, a DWI investigation is sure to follow.
Standardized Field Sobriety Tests
Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs) are tests designed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for the detection of drivers likely to blow over .08. These tests are designed to be given a very specific way, the same way, every time (hence "standardized"). This is often an area of weakness for officers!
These tests are taught through a multi-day program, generally to newer officers. I have attended the same program officers attend and can tell you from experience there is a lot to remember and a lot can go wrong. As such, officers tend to get very lax over time or just plain forget what to do and how to do it.
Remember, these tests are supposed to indicate the likelihood that a person will blow over .08 blood alcohol. They were not designed to be evidence that a person is "drunk."
The standardized field sobriety tests are as follows:
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test: Nystagmus is the involuntary jerking of the eye that is caused by many things, including alcohol. The test is supposed to be given with a specific number of passes to check for clues in each eye. The total number of clues possible is 6, with a "failing" score being 4 or more clues observed. Sometimes officers also check for vertical nystagmus, which may be present if the person has had a relatively high amount of alcohol for their body.
- Walk and Turn Test: Also known as the "walk the line" test, this is a test consisting of 9 heel-to-toe steps, followed by a turn consisting of small steps, and 9 heel-to-toe steps back. There are 8 possible clues, with 2 or more clues observed deemed a "fail."
- One Leg Stand: This test requires the person to stand on one foot with the other foot lifted approximately 6 inches off the ground with the toe pointed forward for approximately 30 seconds. There are 4 observable clues, with 2 or more clues observed deemed a "fail."
Statement of Rights & Blood Alcohol Test(s)
After an arrest for suspicion of DWI, the officer will request a chemical test to determine the level of intoxicants (alcohol or drugs) in a person's system. A Statement of Rights form must first be read to the suspect, where they are advised of their right to refuse the chemical test, though refusal is an additional charge.
Should the suspect consent to a test of their blood, breath, urine, or saliva they have the right to get a second test of their own choosing at their own expense, and if they choose to do so law enforcement must assist them in obtaining it. Chemical tests are required to be performed following a very specific set of rules and regulations.
Failure to properly obtain the sample or help the suspect obtain a second test at their request can lead to the results of the test being excluded as evidence against the suspect. THIS IS HUGE! Qualified DWI lawyers know there are a LOT of ways advisement of rights or a chemical test can be done wrong, and therefore not be introduced as evidence of intoxication against the suspect.
Be sure to ask your attorney a lot of questions regarding this area of your case, as this has been a "make it or break it" area for many people faced with DWI arrest.
Suspension of Driver's License & Interlock Requirements
A person arrested for DWI will have their license confiscated at the time of arrest. Upon release from jail they will be given a form that can be used as a license for a period of 30 days following arrest. Beginning 30 days after the date of arrest a person's license is suspended and they are not allowed to drive a motor vehicle without a restricted license and an interlock device (also known as the "blow and go").
Driving a vehicle when your license is suspended for DWI carries with it a mandatory sentence of no less than 10 days nor more than 90 days in jail!
Additionally, you are now REQUIRED to have an interlock device installed in a vehicle for a period of 6 months before you can get your license reinstated. While you are eligible to get your license reinstated after the 6 month suspension, it will never happen unless you have had an interlock device on a vehicle for a total of 6 months.
Additionally, you have to complete an alcohol education course (through a provider specific to your court) and the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) victim impact class. Finally, a $150 reinstatement fee has to be paid to Driver Control.
How Long Does a DWI Stay on Your Record in Arkansas?
Generally, if you’re convicted for a DUI in Arkansas, it will stay on your record forever. There’s no provision for sealing or wiping of the record after any length of time. A DWI will stay on your record in Arkansas for 5 years after commission of the offence for the purpose of computing the seriousness of the charge and the sentence that can be imposed, this means that if you received another DWI within five years of the previous DWI it will count as a subsequent DWI.
Can You Get a DWI Expunged in Arkansas?
You can get a DWI expunged in Arkansas. You can petition the court of your conviction for an expungement of your Arkansas DWI (felony or misdemeanor). The judge may not deny your petition for expungement unless there is "clear and convincing evidence" that the expungement should not be granted. Keep in mind that you must wait until five (5) years from the completion of your sentence for your DWI before you can petition to expunge and seal your Arkansas DWI conviction. DUIs are also eligible for expungement.
The Bottom Line
As you can see, being charged with DWI will cause you a lot of problems, not the least of which are:
- The possibility of significant jail time (up to a year, even for a first offense)
- Expensive fines and costs (the total can be over $1000 just for the DWI charge)
- Classes that require time and money
- Driving restrictions that most people find very embarrassing and problematic
While a qualified defense attorney may not be able to prevent some of this from happening, you have a much better chance with someone who knows that they are doing as opposed to trying to handle it yourself or hiring someone who has only handled a few DWIs.
If you are charged with DWI, go with someone you trust to do the job right, hire a Bentonville drunk driving attorney.