A 54-year-old man who said he was driving to Birmingham was sentenced to five years and two months in a federal prison after being arrested for DUI at Eglin Air Force Base for the 10th time in 27 years, The Associated Press reports.
Multiple DUI offenders in Birmingham and throughout Alabama turn the charge from a misdemeanor to a felony. While sometimes first-time and second-time offenders can get away without spending significant time in jail, multiple offenders have a better chance at spending serious time in prison. That's why hiring an experienced and aggressive Alabama DUI Defense Attorney is so critical in protecting the client's rights.
According to the news service, the man was stopped at the west gate of the Air Force base in Destin last November. Eglin security police arrested him after he told them he was heading to Birmingham. Officers noted he smelled of alcohol, had trouble rolling down his window and opening his door and couldn't produce a driver's license.
The news service reported that when he pleaded guilty to the charge May 16, it was the 10th time he had been convicted of driving under the influence in 27 years. Because he was arrested on federal property, his case was handled through U.S. District Court.
This is a situation where no matter how many previous charges of driving under the influence a person has, each case must be proven on its own merits. That means challenging the initial stop and whether officers had probable cause to investigate as well as any breath testing and field sobriety testing that was done at the scene.
Breath testing is notoriously faulty, as manufacturing defects and improperly calibrated machines can cause incorrect readings to be registered, which can lead to unlawful arrests.
Officers will also often ask drivers under investigation to perform field sobriety tests, which include the walk and turn, the one-leg stand and the test where people are asked to follow an object while officers shine a bright flashlight into a person's face. All of these tests can be failed through physical limitations or medical problems and sometimes weather conditions that make passing them difficult. Sometimes, video surveillance from the officer's car can actually aid the defendant if it contradicts the officer's notes.
That said, it is impossible to erase past convictions for the purposes of sentencing. While a first offense, second offense and even a third offense can be charged as a misdemeanor with the punishment of possible jail time, fines and fees, registration in a DUI school, driver's license revocation and possibly ignition interlock device, fourth time offenders and onward face a felony charge.
Second and third offenses require mandatory jail time of 5 and 60 days, respectively, under Alabama law, but fourth offenses and up require up to 10 years in prison, plus higher fines and fees, more fines (up to $10,100) and longer driver's license revocation time.
Lawmakers have made the penalties so high to try to encourage people to drive sober and they will continue getting higher as the years go by. Starting in September, the state's new DUI law will go into effect, making it even more important to have a strong defense.
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