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Criminal Defense
Alabama dui laws

In Alabama, as in other states, the penalties for driving under the influence depend on the circumstances of the case and the defendant’s criminal history.

Alabama driving under the influence (DUI) and driving while impaired (DWI) penalties also differ depending on the type of driver and on the driver’s age. 

Our Birmingham, Alabama DUI attorneys will explain.

What Is a DUI Under Alabama Law?

Alabama DUI laws prohibit a person from driving or being in actual physical control of any vehicle while under the influence.

A person is “under the influence,” if they are found to: 

  • Have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or more;
  • Be under the influence of alcohol;
  • Be under the influence of a controlled substance to a degree which renders him or her incapable of safely driving; 
  • Be under the combined influence of alcohol and a controlled substance to a degree which renders him or her incapable of safely driving; or 
  • Be under the influence of any substance which impairs the mental or physical faculties of the person to a degree which renders him or incapable of safely driving. 

Under this rule, police can use either a BAC level or a reasonable belief of the driver’s impairment to charge the driver with DUI. 

Per Se DUI

A DUI charge based on a BAC of 0.08 percent, rather than on a determination of impairment, is known as “per se” driving under the influence. A per se DUI charge does not require any additional proof of impairment. 

Under 21 Years Old DUI

If you are under the age of 21, you can be charged with DUI in Alabama if you have a BAC of 0.02 percent or higher.

School Bus & Day Care Drivers 

If you are a school bus or day care driver, you can be charged with DUI if you have a BAC of 0.02 percent or higher.

Commercial Drivers

If you are a commercial vehicle driver, you can be charged with a DUI if you have a BAC of 0.04 or higher. 

Actual Physical Control 

Under Alabama DUI law, you can be charged with DUI even if you weren’t driving at the time of arrest.

Under the statute, driving includes being in “actual physical control” of a vehicle.

Actual physical control is defined as “the exclusive power, and present ability, to operate, move, park, or direct a motor vehicle at the moment.”

Whether a person is in actual physical control of a vehicle depends on the specific circumstances of the case. 

Can You Refuse a Breath Test?

Alabama drivers operate under an implied consent law.

This law provides that any person who operates a vehicle within state consents to a blood, breath, or urine BAC test, just by operating the vehicle.

A driver is required to consent to a BAC test following a lawful DUI arrest. An arrest is valid under this rule if the arresting officer had reasonable grounds to believe the driver is under the influence. 

A driver can refuse a specific type of BAC test in favor of another.

For example, a driver may refuse a blood test but consent to a breath or urine test. A police officer cannot force a driver to undergo a BAC test unless they have a warrant or other additional authority. 

A driver may refuse all forms of testing but, in doing so, risks the consequences.

A first refusal results in an automatic 90-day driver license suspension. A second or additional refusal within a five year period will result in a one-year license suspension.

Additionally, refusal can be used as evidence in court to suggest the driver’s guilt. 

Alabama Penalties for Successive DUIs

If you were convicted of DUI in Alabama, the penalties you face depend on the specific facts of your case and your criminal history.

Of particular importance is whether you’ve been convicted of DUI in the past. The penalties for DUIs under Alabama law increase with each successive charge. 

In Alabama, the time period or “look back period” for successive offenses is 10 years.

For example, if you were convicted of a DUI twelve years ago and you were recently charged with a DUI offense, you will likely receive the most lenient penalties. 

First DUI

The first DUI offense carries the most lenient sentencing consequences.

The penalties for a first DUI offense are:

  • Up to one year in jail;
  • Between $600 and $2,100 in fines; or 
  • Both. 

Additionally, you will face a 90-day driver license suspension.

For more serious cases, a mandatory ignition interlock may be required even if it’s your first offense.

An ignition interlock device is a breathalyzer installed in an individual’s vehicle. The device prohibits the vehicle from starting unless the driver blows an acceptable BAC. 

The court may order an ignition interlock if:

  • You refused to submit to a BAC test after your arrest;
  • Your BAC level was 0.15 percent or higher; 
  • You were involved in a car accident that injured someone else; or
  • You were arrested for a DUI with a child under 14 in the car.

Someone convicted of a first DUI offense can agree to the installation of an ignition interlock device instead of the 90-day license suspension. 

In addition to jail time, fines, and a potential ignition interlock, a first offense DUI conviction in Alabama requires mandatory probation. 

Second DUI 

A second DUI conviction carries more significant penalties than a first offense.

The court may sentence a second offender to: 

  • A one-year driver license revocation; 
  • Between five days and one year in jail;  
  • Between $1,100 and $5,100 in fines; and 
  • Installation of an ignition interlock for a minimum of two years.

For a second DUI offense, the court can order an ignition interlock requirement of up to four years if the offender refused a BAC test or had a BAC of 0.15 percent or higher. 

Third DUI

A third DUI conviction carries significant potential penalties, including:

  • A three-year driver license revocation; 
  • Between 60 days and one year in jail;
  • Between $2,100 and $10,100 in fines; and 
  • Installation of an ignition interlock for a minimum of three years.

For a third DUI offense, the court can order an ignition interlock requirement of up to six years if the offender refused a BAC test or had a BAC of 0.15 percent or higher. 

Fourth DUI (or Subsequent)

A fourth or subsequent DUI offense in Alabama results in a felony on the driver’s record.

Additional penalties for a fourth or subsequent DUI offense may include:

  • A three-year driver license revocation;
  • Between one and ten years in jail;
  • Between $4,100 and $10,000 in dui fines; and
  • Installation of an ignition interlock for a minimum of three years.

Depending on the facts of the case, a portion of the jail time for a fourth or subsequent offense may be served in a state certified chemical dependency program.

What to Do After a Conviction 

If you were convicted of DUI in Alabama, whether it was your first or fourth offense, you are required to undergo substance abuse evaluation and, if necessary, treatment.

You may have the opportunity to complete probation in place of jail time.

Probationary sentences are under the discretion of the sentencing judge, who will make the determination based on the facts of your case and your criminal history.

It is important to comply with all the terms and conditions of your sentence, including payment of all DUI fines.

Your record will reflect your compliance or lack thereof, such that satisfaction of your sentence will be beneficial should you have any future charges or convictions. 

How a DUI Lawyer in Alabama Can Help

Alabama DUI laws are complicated.

The penalties and sentences for a DUI conviction vary depending on the facts of the case and the driver’s criminal history.

An experienced DUI attorney not only has expertise in Alabama criminal law, but also has experience litigating DUI cases in Alabama courts.

A DUI lawyer will walk you through the process of defending your case, step by step, so that you know what to expect.

And an experienced attorney will negotiate with the prosecutor in the hopes of securing a plea agreement that requires less jail time. 

Call the Dagney Johnson Law Group Today

At the Dagney Johnson Law Group, we prioritize our clients’ needs.

Dagney Johnson and her family have been serving the families of Birmingham and surrounding communities for over 40 years.

Our team of advocates represents clients in all manner of criminal and family law cases. We will go to bat for you so that you can get your life back on track. 

Contact us online or give us a call at (205) 937-6564 today for a free case review.

We will discuss the facts of your case and your options going forward, and we will do our best to assist you in getting the best outcome possible. 

Author Photo

Dagney Johnson

Dagney Johnson is a lawyer who represents clients in family, criminal defense, and personal injury matters in Alabama. Dagney holds a J.D. from Birmingham School of Law and was admitted to practice law in 2003.

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