A news channel in Mobile recently aired a story challenging Alabama's “lenient” DUI laws, after a man with seven DUIs had allegedly been driving drunk when he crashed on Snow Road earlier this year.
Our Birmingham DUI lawyers realize that cases like this rile people, and sometimes result in a senseless tragedy – but they are rare. The fact is, most DUI offenders don't re-offend, and that is partially due to the very fact that the punishment they face upon conviction is quite harsh.
Stories like this with an obvious bias, going so far as to label state statutes “lenient” in a headline, are irresponsible because they give the public a false sense of outrage.
The main thing that the reporter appears to take issue with is the fact that if you have a DUI arrest older than five years, that arrest won't count toward any future DUI cases. So in this case, while the defendant has been arrested six times prior for DUI, prosecutors will only be allowed to count one of those against him in the current case in order to enhance the penalties.
Notice, too, that the reporter said he'd been arrested six times – not convicted. That makes all the difference in whether or not the case is going to be used against you. And that's a big reason why it's so critical to hire an experienced Alabama DUI defense lawyer.
The fact is, each of the modifications made to Alabama law since 1980 addressing repeat DUI offenders has involved the imposition of increasing penalties.
Back in 2000, the state amended the DUI statute to increase the minimum term of imprisonment for a second DUI offender from 2 days to 5 days and the minimum amount of community service from 20 days to 30 days. Four-time DUI offenders also were made to serve a minimum of 10 days in jail, and those under the age of 21 with a BAC of between 0.02 percent and 0.08 percent were made to attend a substance abuse course. The law also required that a person's vehicle registration be suspended for the same time frame as their license was suspended, making it easier for officers to pull them over if they were driving.
But these are just the minimums. Under Alabama Code 32-5A-191, a second conviction for DUI could land a person a minimum fine of $1,100 or up to $5,100. Maximum imprisonment for this charge is one year. One top of that, punishment includes probation and revocation of driving privileges for one year. For a third offense, you're looking at a fine of up to $10,100, up to a year in jail and a three-year revocation of your license.
Most recently, we had the implementation of the ignition interlock program, which went into effect Sept. 1, 2012, and requires those convicted of DUI to have a breathalyzer installed in his or her vehicle for a set duration of time. It's an expensive program, and it's paid for by the offender.
Failure to take these charges seriously will allow a defendant plenty of time to repent at his leisure.
If you have been arrested for DUI in Birmingham, call Steven Eversole at (866) 831-5292.
News 5 Investigates: Alabama's Lenient DUI Laws, Nov. 15, 2012, By Lauren Vargas, WKRG News 5
More Blog Entries:
Drugged DUI a Growing Concern for Alabama Law Enforcement, Nov. 26, 2012, Birmingham DUI Lawyer Blog