Alabama DUI: Penalties and Consequences

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In Alabama, the penalties and other consequences of a DUI conviction include jail time, fines, possible probation, DUI School, driver’s license suspension, and increased insurance costs.  Which penalties and consequences affect you depends on the specifics of your case. For example, a first-time DUI that did not result in injury to people or property will have lighter consequences compared to a subsequent DUI or a DUI that resulted  in injury.

Jail Time & Fines

In Alabama, if you are convicted of a DUI you will likely face at least some jail time and some heavy fines.  The court will sentence you within a range of penalties.  The range is set by whether it is your first or subsequent conviction, and your sentence within that range depends on the circumstances of your case.

First conviction.

  • Jail time – Zero to one year.
  • Fine -- $600 - $1200. 
  • The sentence may include jail time or a fine, or both.

Second conviction.

  • Jail time – Five to one year.
  • Fine -- $1,100 - $5,100.
  • The sentence will include both jail time and a fine.
  • The minimum jail time may be served through at least 30 days of community service.
  • Probation is not an option.  

Third conviction.

  • Jail time – 60 days to one year.  
  • Fine --   $2,100 - $10,100.  
  • The sentence will include both jail time and a fine.
  • Probation is not an option.  

Fourth or subsequent conviction.

  • Jail time – One year (and one day) to ten years.    
  • Fine --   $4,100 - $10,100.  
  • The sentence will include both jail time and a fine.
  • This is a Class C felony.
  • If jail time is one year and one day, it will be served in the county jail.
  • If jail time is less than three years, it can be served in the county jail.
  • Probation is available, however to get probation you must participate in a court-approved chemical dependency program, and you may be put under house arrest and be required to wear a surveillance device.
  • This felony won’t count against you under Alabama’s habitual felony offender law.

Additionally, for all convictions, Alabama law doubles theses penalties if your BAC was more than 0.15 percent or if you had a child younger than 14 years old in the car with you.

Prior DUIs

What if you got your prior DUI many years ago – does that still count as a subsequent DUI? Alabama law looks back only five years.  So if the most recent DUI on your record occurred six or more years ago, for sentencing purposes, a new DUI will be considered your first. However, Alabama will look for DUIs in other states. So if you got a DUI in Georgia (or any other state) last year, the court will consider that a prior DUI when sentencing you for a new DUI.

Ignition Interlock Device

An ignition interlock device is a mechanism that requires you to demonstrate that you do not have any alcohol in your system in order to start your car. The device contains a breathalyzer that you must blow into. If the breathalyzer determines that you have alcohol in your system, your car won’t start.  You may have to use the breathalyzer occasionally as you drive the car as well. Some ignition interlock devices are equipped with a camera to document who is using the breathalyzer.

In many states, ignition interlock devices are a required part of DUI sentencing .  In those states, using an ignition interlock device is usually a condition for getting one’s driver’s license reinstated.

Currently, the law in Alabama does not require the use of ignition interlock device as part of DUI sentencing.  However, that will change soon.  As of August 1, 2012, you will be required to use an ignition interlock device if you:

  • are convicted of a DUI with a BAC of .15 or greater
  • refused mandatory testing for BAC during arrest
  • had a child younger than 14 years old in the car at the time of the DUI
  • injured another person as a result of the DUI, or
  • have two or more DUI convictions within five years.

License Suspension

In Alabama, when you are convicted for a DUI, the court will order the Director of Public Safety to suspend your driver’s license.  The length of suspension depends on how many DUIs you’ve had in the last five years.

  • First conviction – 90 days
  • Second conviction – one year
  • Third conviction – three years
  • Fourth and subsequent convictions – five years

Before the Department of Public Safety reinstates your driver’s license, you must complete a DUI class through the court’s court referral program.

Court Referral Program -- DUI School

In Alabama, any person convicted of a DUI must participate in the state’s “court referral program.”  This is basically DUI school, like driving school, but for DUI offenders. There are three levels of the class, which vary by length, cost, and content.  Level one is a basic 12-hour course that focuses on DUI laws and consequences, as well as the effects of drugs and alcohol. Level two is a 24-hour course (plus 4 hours of mandatory self-help meetings) that also covers creating change in your life, presumably to avoid subsequent DUIs.  Level three is a treatment program.  After your conviction, you will be evaluated to determine which course you’ll have to take. There is also a separate program for youthful offenders. You can learn more about the court referral program on the Alabama state court website, www.alacourt.gov.

Reducing the Charge to Reckless or Wet Reckless

In some states, those arrested for a DUI may be able to reduce the charge to “reckless driving” or “wet reckless.”  Doing this almost always requires a lawyer’s know-how and familiarity with the court. But if the circumstances are right – for example if your BAC was just above the legal limit and there were no other complicating factors – then the reduced charge will result in a much lighter sentence, with many fewer repercussions.

Alabama does not have a wet reckless charge, but you may be able to reduce your charge to reckless driving.  See an experienced DUI lawyer for help.

Financial Consequences

DUIs are very expensive.  If convicted, you can expect to pay many hundreds to many thousands of dollars in court fees, increased costs of insurance, DUI school fees, and license reinstatement fees. In addition, you’ll have legal fees if you decide to hire a lawyer -- a good idea in most DUI cases.

Getting Help With a DUI

If you’re arrested for a DUI in Alabama, consider hiring an attorney.  In some rare situations, you may be able to represent yourself, but in most cases – and certainly if you want to fight or reduce the charge -- you will be better off with representation. To learn about whether you should hire a lawyer, read “DUI: Hire a Lawyer or Represent Yourself?”

Read Alabama’s DUI law in Alabama Code 32-5-191.

 

This article is provided for informational purposes only. If you need legal advice or representation,
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