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Is drunk driving in Arkansas a “strict scrutiny” offense?

On Behalf of | May 22, 2015 | Firm News

There’s nothing like a pothole in the road to energize state politicians in Arkansas and elsewhere, especially when there is a potential for federal money to patch up the mess.

And to repave roadways across the state. And to shore up crumbling bridges. And to attend to myriad other highway-related deficiencies.

There is probably no state politician in the country who objects to receiving federal funds to apply to state infrastructure problems, with Arkansas legislators being no exception.

Sen. David Johnson (D-Little Rock) is a case in point. Johnson has expressed concerns over a recent Arkansas Supreme Court ruling that he thinks might jeopardize incoming federal money, and he wants the governor, Asa Hutchinson, to step in without delay to ensure the continued flow of funds.

Here’s what concerns Johnson. The court last month reversed the criminal DWI conviction of a driver who fell asleep while driving after taking a prescription drug. That motorist successfully argued that Arkansas law requires authorities to prove that a driver knowingly drove while intoxicated to make a conviction stick.

Johnson and like-minded persons think that such a ruling puts incoming federal funds at risk, given the requirements imposed upon states as a prerequisite to receive federal money.

Hutchinson is chairing a special session later this month, and Johnson hopes that the governor will include the DWI ruling/matter as an agenda item.

“The solution is an easy fix,” Johnson says, arguing that a rudimentary word change to statutory law defining driving while intoxicated as a “strict scrutiny” offense not requiring any proof of intent at all will likely be sufficient to ensure the ongoing flow of federal funds into the state.

Intent is but one of many issues that can emerge in a DWI stop, with motorists sometimes having questions regarding probable cause, sobriety tests, breathalyzer readings, police conduct and additional matters.

Those concerns can be candidly and confidentially discussed with a proven Little Rock criminal defense attorney experienced in representing clients facing drunk driving-related criminal charges.


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