Birmingham police are known for taking a hard line approach with regard to DUI offenders.
But apparently, as our DUI defense lawyers have learned, they fall far short of the tally being kept by police in Huntsville.
The Huntsville Times reports that the department's seven-officer DUI enforcement unit has been ranked No. 1 for the 15th year in a row with regard to DUI arrests.
In fact, the 2010 Drager rankings, which are so named for the equipment used to conduct DUI breathalyzers, showed the department had nearly 990 arrests. Auburn police came in a far second with about 475 arrests. Meanwhile, Birmingham, Mobile and Montgomery were less than a third of those figures.
To give you an idea of where we stand in the ranking, here are the full 2010 Drager Ratings:
Huntsville – 989
Auburn – 473
Mobile – 453
Decatur – 421
Birmingham – 327
Foley – 305
Tuscaloosa – 302
Montgomery – 288
Anniston – 247
Athens – 237
The Huntsville department also reported having Alabama's busiest DUI officer, who reportedly had more individual DUI arrests than any other officer for five years and counting. The second and third-place contenders are also from Huntsville.
Now, this may all sound like reason to pat these officers on the back. And no doubt, they work hard.
The problem is, when you're busy keeping score, you're not necessarily paying attention to every detail that could make a difference in every single arrest. It's additionally worth noting that an arrest isn't a conviction – and it's interesting that the score-keeping being done by the paper doesn't include subsequent convictions.
The fact of the matter is, there is a lot of evidence that must be present in order for a DUI conviction to stick. Prosecutors don't tell you that when they're trying to pressure you to simply plead guilty so they can move on to the next case. However the truth is, it's up to prosecutors to prove you were driving drunk.
There are a number of ways they can do that – with dash cams that might show you unsteady on your feet, breathalyzer tests that purport to show your blood-alcohol level, field sobriety tests or officer observations. However, it's worth noting that the majority of these are quite subjective. A field sobriety test, for example, won't definitively prove your drunk. Usually, the point is to intimidate you so that you'll admit to the officer you've been drinking – another piece of evidence that can be used against you.
One of the ways these agencies snag more offenders and boost their numbers is through the use of DUI checkpoints. As the U.S. Supreme Court has declared these operations legal, it's best to educate potential clients on how to handle them.
Keep in mind, it's never wise to drink and drive. But if you are stopped at a DUI checkpoint after you have been drinking and believe you may be over the legal limit:
DON'T try to turn around or flee. Officers will catch up to you, and you'll only be under greater scrutiny.
DON'T offer a statement to police officers about where you have been, where you are going or how much you have had to drink.
DO request to speak with your lawyer, and decline to answer any questions or submit to any testing until you've done so.
DO decline a field sobriety test if you believe you won't pass it. Unlike declining a breathalyzer, there are no automatic penalties for declining, and submitting to the tests when you know you'll fail is only giving officers more ammunition against you in court.
DO be respectful and courteous. Rudeness will only make the officer more apt to pile on the charges if he or she is able.
If you have been arrested contact Birmingham DUI Defense Attorney Steven Eversole at (866) 831-5292.