[Note: An interlock is a breathalyzer installed on your car that you blow into before starting your car and periodically thereafter. It is supposed to ensure that your BAC is under .02 before allowing your car to start or continue to run.]
Getting a DWI in Arkansas just got a little bit costlier. Prior to July 31st, if you were charged with a first-offense DWI (under a .15 BAC), then you could have a “free” work permit that allowed the accused to travel to and from work without having an ignition interlock device (often referred to as an “interlock”) installed on their car. Under the old law, as long as there was not a Refusal also charged, then the suspension period was 120 days. If you blew over a .15 or were charged with a Refusal, then the suspension period was 6 months and you were required to install an interlock to be able to drive.
Beginning July 31st, the work permit no longer exists (except for a first-offense DUI). Also, there is no longer any legal distinction between a BAC lower than .15 and one that was .15 or higher. All first-offense DWI’s and/or Refusals include a 6 month suspension, and you must have an interlock installed to be able to drive during your 6 month suspension period (having an interlock license for 6 months is actually a MANDATORY requirement for you to be able to get your license back).
There IS one silver lining for accused drivers (actually, it’s more of a “gold lining” for interlock retailers). The old law prohibited 2nd and 3rd Offense DWI’s from obtaining any sort of relief (whether a work permit or an interlock license) for the entire 1st year of each’s suspension period. The new law allows 2nd and 3rd Offense DWI’s to obtain an interlock license after only 45 days, as opposed to 1 year. There is no change for 2nd and 3rd Offense Refusals; they are still prohibited from any sort of relief. Unlike first-offense DWI’s, repeat-offense DWI’s do not appear to have a mandatory interlock requirement.
It should be noted that there are many legitimate reasons why a person may not want to have an interlock installed, such as the cost (roughly $150 for installation and $60 per month), the embarrassment, the hassle of having to constantly blow into the interlock while driving, and the real possibility that a mechanical error or false positive could lock you out of your car and leave you or the driver stranded.
So you’re considering driving during your suspension period without having an interlock license? Bad idea. First, if you are caught driving, the crime of Driving on a Suspended License for DWI includes an automatic 10-day jail sentence. Second, as stated above, the interlock is mandatory, and you will not be able to get your license back until, in addition to other requirements, you have had an interlock installed on your car for 6 months. That is, unless you win your case in the meantime. In short, unless you win, there is no way around having an interlock in your car for 6 months if you ever plan on driving legally again.
Luckily, it’s not too late if you want to start up your own interlock retailer to try to recoup some of those interlock fees. There shouldn’t be any lack of business thanks to our local lobbyists and legislators.