Fighting an Aggravated DUI Charge in Alabama

A simple DUI arrest in Alabama is a serious matter with the potential to impact nearly every facet of your life – including your personal and professional relationships, your pocketbook and your freedom.

These consequences will be amplified further if you are charged with aggravated DUI. This charge often arises when someone has a blood-alcohol level that crosses the 0.15 percent threshold. Alternatively, it could be charged if someone who is over the age of 21 is arrested for a DUI while a minor who is 14 or younger is in the vehicle at the time.

State legislators recently bolstered DUI laws, specifically targeting these aggravated cases, as well as repeat offenders.

One of those measures, SB 67, also known as the “Super Drunk” DUI bill, became effective Sept. 1, 2011. Previous to this, a DUI was a DUI, with no special penalties for a person whose blood-alcohol content measured 0.15 percent or higher. What this bill did was make it so that someone whose alcohol concentration was more than double the legal limit would receive double the penalties.

So for example, let's say this is your first DUI conviction. Normally, under Alabama Code 32-5A-191, you would face up to a year in jail, fines of up to $2,100 and a 90-day license suspension. Under the new law, with a heightened blood-alcohol level, you would face up to 2 years behind bars and fines of up to $4,200. It also calls for a minimum 1-year license suspension.

This same enhancement was already applicable to those who were caught driving drunk with a minor in the vehicle.

Someone arrested for having a minor in the vehicle could also potentially face child endangerment charges, and all of this could have an impact on parental custody and/or visitation.

At the same time SB 67 passed, another measure, HB 361 was also approved. This measure made Alabama the 50th state to pass an ignition interlock law.

Ignition interlock devices, if you aren't familiar, are installed in the vehicles of persons convicted of DUI. They are essentially mini-breathalyzer tests that require the driver to offer a breath sample before the vehicle will start. If the device detects anything over 0.02 percent, the vehicle will be rendered immobile.

Installation and maintenance costs fall squarely on the shoulders of the offender. Typically, it's not required for a first-time offender. However, someone convicted of an aggravated DUI will be obligated to have the device installed for a period of at least two years after his or her license is reinstated.

That two-year period could be stretched if the offender violates the terms of use, which include:

  • Tampering with the device;
  • Failure to have the device serviced at least once every month;
  • Blowing into the device with a blood-alcohol level exceeding 0.02 percent four or more times within a 30-day period.

Our strategy as DUI defense attorneys is to, at a minimum, see if it is at all possible to have the charges reduced. This could include legal challenges to the way evidence was collected, the accuracy of devices used to collect it or the validity of those results.

When the stakes are so incredibly high, it's critical that those facing aggravated DUI charges seek the services of an experienced defense attorney.