Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious offense in Alabama that can incur very harsh consequences. Even for a first offense, you will be facing fines and penalties, loss of driving privileges, and the possibility of some jail time. For second and subsequent offenses, the penalties increase, and it becomes more difficult to defend the charges against you. If you have been arrested and charged for DUI, you cannot afford to fight this battle alone.
A conviction will not only result in stiff penalties, it could impact your life in numerous other ways as well. For example, having a criminal record makes it more difficult to obtain employment, housing, financing, college admissions, and firearms. You might also have difficulty obtaining a professional license or getting your professional license renewed. And if you are a commercial driver, a DUI conviction can cost you your livelihood. With so much on the line, it is important to get in touch with an experienced DUI defense attorney as soon as possible, so they can begin working on your case.
At the Zach Peagler Law Firm, we understand the seriousness of the situation when you are facing a DUI charge, and attorney Zach Peagler is ready to put together an aggressive defense strategy. Zach is intimately familiar with the local courts in Birmingham and in nearby communities, and he has a successful track record helping clients secure positive outcomes with these types of cases. Zach has the knowledge, skills, resources, and commitment to provide the strong personalized representation you need and deserve.
Alabama DUI Laws
Most adults in Alabama can be charged for driving under the influence if they are driving or have actual physical control of a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or above. This is commonly known as a “per se” DUI, in which the driver is presumed to be intoxicated because they are over the legal BAC limit. A driver may also be charged for DUI if they are intoxicated to the point that they are incapable of safely operating a vehicle.
The legal limit for DUI is lower for certain individuals. For drivers under the age of 21, the BAC threshold is just .02, and for those driving commercial vehicles, the BAC threshold is .04.
Penalties for DUI vary depending on how many prior offenses you have within the past 10 years, and other specific circumstances:
First Offense: Someone convicted of a first-time DUI could face fines starting at $600, a 90-day driver’s license suspension, and up to one year in county jail. There is no minimum jail sentence for a first-time offender, and it is often possible for someone in this situation to avoid jail time.
Second Offense: For a second-time offender, fines start at $1,100, driver’s license is revoked for one year, and there is a minimum jail sentence of five days.
Third Offense: For a third-time offender, fines start at $2,100, driver’s license is revoked for three years, and there is a minimum jail sentence of 60 days.
Other penalties may include community service, mandatory alcohol treatment, and the requirement to install an ignition interlock device (IID). In some cases, an offender may be eligible to install an IID during their license suspension or revocation period. And upon successfully completing the IID requirement, their suspension or revocation period may be commuted.
A DUI accident resulting in serious injuries or fatalities;
Driving with a BAC of .15 or higher;
Excessive speeding or other forms of reckless driving;
Leaving the scene of an accident;
Fleeing a police officer;
Driving without a valid license or with a license that is suspended or revoked;
Refusal to submit to the mandatory chemical test after a DUI arrest.
Potential DUI Defenses
Many people believe that if they are arrested for DUI, there is very little that they can do to successfully defend their case. Nothing could be further from the truth. Everyone is entitled to due process, and the presumption of innocence is one of the bedrocks of our legal system. As such, the burden of proof is on the state to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that you were driving drunk.
During a DUI arrest, there are often mistakes made by law enforcement, and there are usually other weaknesses in the government’s case. After a thorough investigation, we will identify any and all mitigating factors and customize the most effective possible defense (based on the specific circumstances of the case).
Some possible defenses that can be used to fight a DUI charge include:
Lack of Reasonable Suspicion
The police need to have a valid reason to pull you over for drunk driving in the first place. This is known as “reasonable suspicion”. For example, if they pulled you over based solely on a tip by an anonymous caller and without an observed violation, this may not be a sufficient cause for a lawful stop.
Lack of Probable Cause
Another issue that is closely related to reasonable suspicion is the need for probable cause to make an arrest. Assuming they did have a lawful reason to pull you over, the police still need to obtain sufficient proof to arrest you. Examples may include slurred speech, failing a field sobriety test (FST), or failing the portable breath test (PBT) that was administered during the stop.
It is important to note that you have the legal right to refuse a field sobriety test or a portable breath test, and it is almost always in your best interest to do so. First of all, these tests are being given by someone who already suspects that you are legally drunk, so it is a reasonable assumption that they will not be administered fairly. Secondly, without these tests, law enforcement will have a much weaker case against you.
There is also a chemical (breath, blood, or urine) test that you will be given after the arrest at the police station. Under Alabama’s implied consent laws, you are required to submit to this test or face an automatic administrative suspension of your driver’s license. That said, not having these test results could also weaken the government’s case. If you are arrested and brought to the station, it is best to call an experienced DUI defense lawyer immediately to discuss your situation and what to do next.
Unreliable or Inaccurate Field Sobriety Test
As mentioned in the previous point, field sobriety tests are subjectively evaluated by an officer who already suspects that you are legally drunk. In addition, these tests have often been shown not to be reliable indicators of a person’s impairment. There are several reasons for this. First of all, test subjects are often suffering from anxiety from the whole experience of being pulled over for DUI. Secondly, some people weigh more than others and may have certain physical impairments that prevent them from completing the requirements of the test.
Unreliable or Inaccurate Chemical Test
There are numerous errors that can be made with chemical tests as well. For example, the machine may not be functioning properly, or it may have been mishandled by the police. BAC tests can be unreliable for other reasons as well, such as when someone has acid reflex or a similar condition that can cause the machine to register a much higher BAC than the subject actually had.
What Are Some Alternative Punishments To Jail For A DUI Conviction?
Community service and probation are alternative punishments. In Alabama, a second time DUI would be punishable by a minimum of 5 days in jail, but a judge would probate that and send the person for 240 hours of community service, which would be a lot of community service. Things like community service, probation, alcohol classes, and defensive driving school are not necessarily considered punishments, whereas the alcohol classes and defensive driving school would be an alternative requirement to complete in lieu of jail time or potential jail time in many cases.
Is There Such A Thing As Drug Court In Alabama?
What Is Drug Court?
The drug court obviously handles drug charges instead of DUI, although it would be similar to a deferred prosecution in a DUI case whereby the client would probably subject himself to community service and probably do some counseling or drug treatment type sessions. They would have to report back to court on a regular basis to make sure they were staying out of trouble, and they would probably be randomly monitored for drugs and alcohol. They would have to go through this for probably 6 to 12 months if they were having a DUI conviction processed in the court.
Part of the epidemic lately is that the general public thinks drug court and deferred prosecution are something they would be able to handle without the assistance of a lawyer, and although they might be able to do that in some instances, I would not advise going into court without a lawyer because the person would not understand what they were signing up for. They would not understand how long they may keep them in there and the court system generally does a poor job of explaining exactly what is going on to criminal defendants.
It is not out of maliciousness or anything like that, but it would simply be because they are such a large and vast system that it allows people who work in it to think that everybody on earth deals with criminal court everyday of their lives. For somebody who had never been charged with a crime before, it would be a massively confusing process when they showed up for court, so they should certainly try to have somebody there whose sole purpose it was to protect their rights and guide them through the system.
What Happens If Someone Does Not Successfully Complete One Of These Alternative Programs?
This could potentially end up in jail time, which is why the person should make sure they understood what they had signed up for. It could result in a conviction on their record that would then result in an additional license suspension, potentially the cancellation of their insurance and potentially the loss of their job. It would be critically important to complete these programs if someone entered into it and they should have their attorney with them to fully explain what they would actually be getting into.
Is Everyone Who Is Charged Or Convicted Of A DUI In Alabama Required To Have An Ignition Interlock Device?
This is a relatively new law in Alabama, and it is just now starting to take hold because judges and other state officials do not really know how to implement the ignition interlock device, even though it has been around for a few years. The ignition interlock device is essentially a breathalyzer machine that is installed into the car and will not allow the car to run until the driver blew in it and registered no alcohol in their system.
The legislator in Alabama hastily passed the law regarding the ignition interlock because they felt like it made the public safer and made Alabama seem tougher on DUIs, although they did not really do much planning on how it was actually going to be implemented, what companies were going to manufacture these devices, who was going to install them, who was going to get paid to maintain them, and all of the things that go along with passing such a law.
It is still really new in Alabama and it is just now starting to take hold so not everybody who is convicted would be required to have an ignition interlock device. There are certain instances where someone charged with DUI may request to have an ignition interlock device installed because it might reduce or eliminate the period of driver’s license suspension.
Contact a Skilled and Knowledgeable Birmingham, AL DUI Attorney
Being stopped for DUI does not necessarily mean you will be convicted. You have rights, and there may be mitigating factors that can allow you to get the charges dropped or at the very least reduced to a lesser offense. At the Zach Peagler Law Firm, we are ready to get to work right away on your defense. Call our office today at (205) 871-9990 or message us online for a discrete and confidential consultation with our attorney.
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