It is an unpleasant surprise to many first-time DUI defendants to learn that the consequences of a first offense in Alabama are costly, painful, and time-consuming. These consequences become progressively worse with repeat offenses, but even the first offense can affect a defendant’s life for years to come.
Mandatory Sentencing for a DUI Conviction
The Code of Alabama §32-5A-191(e) sets the guidelines for sentencing of a first time DUI defendant:
- The defendant may be sentenced to up to one year in the country or municipal jail, a fine between $600 and $2100, or both jail and a fine.
- The defendant’s driver’s license is suspended for ninety days unless he or she has an approved ignition interlock device installed in his or her vehicle for six months.
- If the driver refused a blood alcohol test or if a passenger under the age of fourteen was in the vehicle, the defendant’s driver’s license is suspended for ninety days and an ignition interlock must be installed on his or her vehicle for two years. (After forty-five days of license suspension, the defendant can have the interlock installed and begin the two-year period. The additional suspension is stayed after two successful years of interlock use.)
The Consequences Many Defendants Don’t Know About
While most defendants understand that they face a combination of fines, jail time, and ignition interlock use, they are painfully unaware of the collateral consequences that a DUI conviction can bring. First, the court process is not a simple matter of filling out forms. It requires multiple appearances at the court which often result in missing work. Court-ordered community service and substance abuse classes take more time and can further aggravate the defendant’s employer. Furthermore, the sentenced fine is not the only court cost a DUI defendant must pay. There are court fees, administrative fees, attorney’s fees, and other fees which add up quickly. Finally, defendants do not always realize the impact of having a criminal record. This can preclude employment and educational opportunities. Social events and relationships can also be impacted.
A DUI defendant’s employment can also be affected by his or her professional licensure. Many licensing entities in Alabama require reporting of criminal convictions – some even require reporting of arrests and other pre-conviction proceedings. A first time DUI offense can cause a defendant to spend many hours attempting to secure his or her professional licensure. This, too, can incur more attorney's fees.
Finally, it is important to realize how much time must be spent at the DMV in order to reinstate a DUI defendant’s driving privileges. A special restricted license must be obtained for the period in which a defendant has an ignition interlock device. When this period is successfully completed, the defendant must obtain the appropriate court order and return to the DMV to have his or her regular driver’s license reinstated. This process is neither fun nor fast.
Contact An Experienced Attorney
There are many costly consequences to any DUI – even if it is the first offense. It is important that defendants have an experienced criminal defense attorney who can ably guide them through the process. Barclay Law has years of experience in protecting legal rights and ensuring a fair outcome in the criminal justice system for criminal defendants in and around the Birmingham area.