Alabama DUI Laws, Penalties & Fines

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The state of Alabama defines driving under the influence (DUI) as driving or being in actual physical control of a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or above, according to Code of Alabama Section 32-5A-191. Penalties for a DUI offense include incarceration, a fine, driver’s license suspension, installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) and attendance at a substance abuse course. The length and content of a substance abuse course differs depending on the driver’s age, criminal history and issues with substance abuse, according to the Alabama Administrative Office of Courts Accountability Courts, Educational Program.

Some states use other terms for DUI, such as OUI (operating under the influence) or DWI (driving while intoxicated).

Penalties for a First-Time Alabama DUI Charge

Penalties for a first offense include jail time up to one year, a fine between $600 and $2,100, attendance of a substance abuse course and 90 days driver’s license suspension, according to Code of Alabama Section 32-5A-191. The driver’s license suspension will be stayed if the offender installs an IID on their vehicle for 90 days.

The period of driver’s license suspension will be increased to one year if the offender refused to take a breathalyzer or chemical test; if a child under 14 was a passenger in the vehicle during the offense; someone else besides the offender was injured during the offense; or the offender had a BAC of 0.15 percent or above. This one-year suspension will be stayed if the offender installs an IID on their vehicle for the entire year.

The remainder of the suspension period will be commuted upon the successful completion of the IID installation term. If an individual refused to provide a blood alcohol concentration test; is found to have had a BAC of 0.15 percent during the DUI; was involved in a crash where another person was injured; or was drunk driving with a child under 14 in the vehicle, they will be sentenced to at least double the minimum punishment that they would have otherwise suffered. This increase does not apply to the amount of time for which they must install an IID.

Deferred Prosecution for First DUI

A first offender can apply to enter a pretrial diversion or DUI deferred prosecution program with the court in which they were charged. The requirements for a deferred prosecution program are strict and vary among counties. For example, eligibility for the Jefferson County DUI Deferred Prosecution Program requires the defendant to have had no prior DUIs, have been driving with a BAC under 0.15 percent at the time of arrest, and have been cooperative and compliant with law enforcement officers, according to the Jefferson County DUI Deferred Prosecution Program.

An individual approved for a pretrial diversion or a DUI deferred prosecution program is required to install an IID for a minimum of six months or the duration of the program, whichever is greater, according to Code of Alabama Section 32-5A-191. If the individual’s driver’s license has been suspended, the period of suspension will be stayed. The stay will be commuted upon the individual’s successful completion of the program.

Penalties for a Second Alabama DUI

Penalties for a second offense include a county jail sentence of between five days and one year, a fine between $1,100 and $5,100, attendance of a substance abuse course, one year driver’s license revocation and two years IID installation. The jail time can be substituted with a minimum of 30 days community service. The offender must wait until 45 days of the driver’s license revocation period have passed to begin driving with an IID.

The revocation is then stayed from that time forward. The remainder of the revocation period will be commuted upon the successful completion of the IID installation term. The additional penalties for a test refusal, a BAC above 0.15 percent, a crash involving injury to another person, or drunk driving with a child under 14 in the vehicle also apply when the offender has a second DUI conviction.

Penalties for a Third Alabama DUI

Penalties for a third offense include jail time between 60 days and one year, a fine between $2,100 and $10,100, attendance at a substance abuse course, three years driver’s license revocation and three years IID installation, according to Code of Alabama Section 32-5A-191. The 60 days of jail time cannot be probated or suspended. The repeat offender must wait until 60 days of the driver’s license revocation period have passed to begin driving with an IID.

The revocation is then stayed from that time forward. The remainder of the suspension period will be commuted upon the successful completion of the IID installation term. The additional penalties for a third refusal, a BAC above 0.15 percent, crash involving injury to another person or drunk driving with a child under 14 in the vehicle also apply when the offender has a third DUI conviction.

Penalties for a Fourth Alabama DUI

Penalties for a fourth or subsequent offense include jail time between one year and one day to 10 years, a fine between $4,100 and $10,100, attendance at a substance abuse course, five years driver’s license revocation and four years IID installation, according to Code of Alabama Section 32-5A-191. The offender must serve a minimum of 10 days jail time. The court may suspend or probate the rest of the sentence on the condition that the defendant successfully completes a state certified chemical dependency program recommended by the court referral officer. The program must be approved by the sentencing court.

When the sentencing court grants probation, it may place the defendant on house arrest under electronic surveillance. The offender must wait until one year of the driver’s license revocation period has passed to begin driving with an IID. The revocation is then stayed from that time forward. The remainder of the suspension period will be commuted upon the successful completion of the IID installation term.

The additional penalties for a fourth or subsequent refusal, a BAC above 0.15 percent; a crash involving injury to another person; or drunk driving with a child under 14 in the vehicle also apply when the offender has a fourth or subsequent DUI conviction. A fourth or subsequent DUI is charged as a Class C felony, according to Code of Alabama Section 32-5A-191. This type of felony is the third most serious type of felony in the state, according to Code of Alabama Section 13A-5-6.

Alabama Youthful Offender Status Request

When an individual commits an offense before turning 21, they can request to be tried as a youthful offender, according to Code of Alabama Section 15-9-1. A defendant must request youthful offender status, it is not automatically granted to them. The advantages of being tried as a youthful offender include the proceeding being civil rather than criminal. In addition, the public cannot access the fingerprints and photos of a person charged as a youthful offender under Code of Alabama Section 15-9-7.

Vehicle Impoundment and Forfeiture in Alabama

An individual who has been arrested for a DUI should expect to have their motor vehicle towed to an impound yard. Some law enforcement agencies contract with private impound yards; others, like the city of Mobile, have their own impound yards, according to Mobile Police Department information on retrieving a vehicle from impound.

There are fees for both towing and storage. A law enforcement agency can stop an individual from retrieving a vehicle by placing it on an investigative hold. In certain cases, the vehicle may be subject to forfeiture. An individual should speak to their attorney about a hearing to get a vehicle released.

Prior DUIs in Alabama

Alabama’s look-back period for prior DUIs is 10 years, according to Code of Alabama Section 32-5A-191. Alabama considers a prior DUI conviction from another state to count toward a defendant’s total if the law under which the individual was convicted was substantially the same as Alabama’s DUI law. The exception to the 10-year rule is if the defendant has a previous felony DUI conviction.

Under these circumstances, all of the defendant’s subsequent DUI convictions are treated as felonies. This is true regardless of the date of the individual’s previous felony DUI conviction. Alabama’s habitual felony offender law does not apply to a DUI conviction, according to Code of Alabama Section 32-5A-191.

The penalties for operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs are almost the same as those for a DUI, according to Code of Alabama Section 32-5A-191.3. One difference is that an act of boating under the influence involves the suspension or revocation of the individual’s vessel operating privilege or boater safety certification rather than their driver’s license. An offense of boating under the influence does not count as a prior DUI.

Underage DUI Offenders

Alabama defines an underage DUI as a driver under 21 who is driving with a BAC of 0.02 percent or above, according to Code of Alabama Section 32-5A-191. An underage driver with a BAC of 0.08 percent or above can be charged with a standard DUI. For a first offense, an individual will suffer a driver’s license suspension of 30 days.

There shall be no disclosure, other than to courts, law enforcement agencies, the person’s attorney of record and the person’s employer, of any information or records relating to the DUI. This prohibition against disclosure includes mention of the individual’s arrest, conviction or adjudication of guilt for the underage DUI.

DUI Specialty Courts

Driving While Intoxicated Court, also called DUI Court, typically lasts a minimum of one year, according to Birmingham, Alabama, Specialty Courts. DUI court requires a defendant to come to court frequently, undergo alcohol screenings and be rewarded with specific incentives to refrain from alcohol use and drunk driving. Not every municipal or district court has a DUI court; some counties have drug courts, which often follows a similar model.

DUI Offenders and Hardship Licenses

An individual who has been adjudicated or convicted of a DUI is not eligible for the issuance of a hardship driver license, according to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency. A hardship license, which allows limited driving privileges, is for a driver who cannot obtain reasonable transportation and has had their license suspended or revoked for a reason other than a DUI conviction. It is also for individuals participating in a Community Corrections program or an Alabama Department of Corrections regulated work release program.

Court Referral Programs

The three levels of court referral programs are: Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, and Youth and Juvenile programs. The Level 1 program is designed for defendants determined not to have a substance abuse problem. The Level 2 program is for defendants determined or presumed to have a problem with alcohol. This program takes longer than the Level 1 program and requires the individual to attend four self-help meetings before the last session of the program.

Level 3 is a referral to treatment. Typically a Level 3 referral is sent to a community mental health center for a full assessment. A defendant is then referred to an inpatient treatment or intensive outpatient program. A Youth and Juvenile program is for an individual 21 or under who has been involved in an alcohol-related offense. An offender between the ages of 18 and 20 can be assigned to adult Level 1 or Level 2 programs.