Alabama now has tougher DUI laws than ever before, which are going to cost people both money and freedom. One of those new laws includes a requirement that all persons convicted of DUI in Alabama will be required to have ignition interlock devices installed. (The other law pertains to the so-called "look-back period," which is the length of time the DUI judge will have to examine your prior DUI record.)
Alabama's DUI Laws, Explained
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (which previously reported half of the 18,500 people arrested by county and municipal agencies for alcohol violations in 2016 were charged with driving under the influence) offers a concise breakdown of DUI penalties based on how many prior convictions the offender has.
Penalties vary depending on the degree of intoxication (those with a BAC of 0.015 or higher will face harsher punishments), whether there were any minor children under 14 in the vehicle (double the punishment for any over-21 impaired driver who violates this), whether a crash with personal injuries was involved and, of course, prior criminal record.
Under existing law, even someone with no prior convictions can be sentenced up to one year in jail, a $2,000 fine and a 90-day license suspension - a stiff penalty for a first offense. However, up until recently, only certain first-time offenders (along with all repeat offenders) were required to have ignition interlock devices installed. A total of 874 drivers in Alabama have licenses restricted by ignition interlock, according to the ALEA.
New Alabama DUI Laws Recently in Effect
Ignition interlock devices are devices affixed to a vehicle that prevent it from starting until the driver blows into the device. If the BAC is over 0.02, the car doesn't start.
Rather than cutting a break to first-time offenders (particularly those who go through pre-trial diversion for the chance to avoid a conviction at the end of it all), everyone charged with a DUI will be required to have such a device installed. As AL.com reports, these devices cost approximately $110 for installation and another $80 each month while use is required - plus a $200 fee. The new law says those who enter a pretrial diversion will be required to have an ignition interlock installed for at least six months or until they complete pretrial diversion.
The second part of the new law increases the prior five-year look-back period to 10 years. What that means is when a person is arrested for DUI in Birmingham, or elsewhere in Alabama, the court will now look back on the record from the previous 10 years and any prior DUI offenses would count against them for the purposes of sentencing.
These new penalties make the consequences of a DUI conviction even more severe. If you have been arrested and charged with a DUI, it is crucial that you speak to an experienced DUI defense attorney immediately.