Summary of Alabama’s DUI Law*
Alabama DUI law can be complicated. Below is a summary of Alabama DUI law that will give you a better understanding of the laws as written as well as the consequences of being convicted of the offense of DUI in Alabama.
A person may be charged with Driving Under the Influence (DUI) if the police officer(s) reasonably believe(s) that there is probable cause that the person was found to be in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while:
- there is .08% or greater of alcohol in his blood,
- under the influence of alcohol,
- under the influence of a controlled substance,
- under the combined influence of alcohol and a controlled substance, or
- under the influence of any substance which impairs mental or physical faculties.
§32-5A-191(a)(1)-(5), Code of Ala. 1975.
Keep in mind that a charge of DUI is not a conviction. Many people labor under the mistaken belief that they have to be driving a vehicle to be charged with DUI. However, to be charged with DUI, a person need only be in actual physical control of a motor vehicle. Actual physical control is sometimes defined as the exclusive physical power, and present ability, to operate, move, park, or direct whatever use or nonuse is to be made of a motor vehicle at the moment, as determined by the totality of the circumstances. Adams v. State, 585 So.2d 161 (Ala. 1991). For instance, a person who meets one of the above conditions and who is asleep in, or simply sitting in, a motor vehicle may be guilty of DUI.
There are several occasions when individuals will be held to a higher standard than those conditions stated above. As a deterrent to underage drinking, a person under the age of 21 may not be in actual physical control of a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol level of .02% or greater. An underage individual (under 21) convicted, or adjudicated guilty, of DUI with a blood alcohol level between .02% and .08% on a first offense DUI may have his driver’s license suspended for a minimum of 30 days in lieu of any other punishments imposed by the court. The penalties are more severe if the underage individual had a blood alcohol content of over .08%.
§32-5A-191(b), Code of Ala. 1975.
Furthermore, a person who is operating a school bus or a day care vehicle is prohibited from operating a vehicle while there is .02% or greater of alcohol by weight in his blood. If the school bus or day care vehicle driver is convicted, in addition to any other penalties, his or her driver’s license may be suspended for a minimum of one (1) year.
§32-5A-191(c), Code of Ala. 1975.
Alabama law doubles the minimum punishment for a DUI conviction if the person convicted was over the age of 21 at the time of the stop and had a child under the age of 14 in the vehicle.
§ 32-5A-191(n), Code of Ala. 1975.
The penalties for DUI have increased dramatically in the past few years. The sentencing range for a particular case, and whether the offense will be a misdemeanor or felony, is based on the number of prior DUI offenses.
The first DUI conviction in a person’s lifetime is a misdemeanor. Upon conviction the defendant may be give a sentence of up to 365 days in the county or municipal jail and a fine between $600 and $2,100. The defendant will also be ordered to attend a court referral program, and he may have his driver’s license suspended for 90 days.
§32-5A-191(e), Code of Ala. 1975.
If a person has only one prior DUI, and the date that he is convicted of his second DUI is more than five (5) years after the date of conviction for his first DUI, he will be sentenced within the range of punishment as a first offender. However, if the second DUI conviction is within 5 years of the first conviction, he will be punished as a second offense. A second DUI is a misdemeanor with a jail term of no less than five (5) days and up to 365 days in the county or municipal jail. A court may allow a defendant to perform 30 days of community service in lieu of the required five (5) days imprisonment. On a second conviction, the accused will be fined between $1,100 and $5,100, his license may be revoked for one (1) year, and he will be required to attend a court referral program.
§32-5A-191(f), Code of Ala. 1975.
A third DUI conviction within five (5) years of the current conviction date is currently a misdemeanor. Upon conviction he will be sentenced to no less than 60 days and no more than one (1) year in the county or municipal jail. The accused shall be fined between $2,100 and $10,100, may have his driver’s license revoked for three (3) years and shall be required to complete a court referral program.
§32-5A-191(g), Code of Ala. 1975.
The fourth, or subsequent, DUI within five (5) years of the current conviction is a Class C felony. A person convicted of felony DUI will be sentenced to no less than one year and one day and no more than ten (10) years imprisonment. He must serve a mandatory minimum of ten (10) days of that sentence. The remainder of the sentence may be suspended or probated, but only if the person enrolls and successfully completes a state certified chemical dependency program. He will be fined between $4,100 and $10,100 dollars, and may have his driver’s license suspended for 5 years.
§ 32-5A-191(h), Code of Ala. 1975.
In 2011 the Alabama Legislature passed two bills that dramatically increased penalties for those convicted of alcohol related DUI’s. First, the Legislature passed a bill that would require most DUI offenders to install ignition interlock devices in their cars. There is some question about whether this bill has been repealed by the second DUI bill that passed the Legislature in the same legislative session. However, if the ignition interlock bill goes into effect, even some first time offenders will have to have ignition interlock devices installed in their cars! Any person sentenced to having an ignition interlock placed on their vehicle will also have to get a new limited driver’s license that says that their license is subject to an ignition interlock. The second DUI bill passed by the Legislature doubles the minimum punishment for a DUI conviction when the person’s blood alcohol level is .15% or higher. The bill also increases the minimum driver’s license suspension time for these high blood alcohol cases to not less than one year.
If individuals are arrested for DUI and driving a commercial vehicle, special rules apply.
Alabama also has a law concerning boating under the influence of alcohol and/or a controlled substance. The “legal limit” on the water of this state is .08% blood alcohol.
*Alabama’s DUI law has been amended many times and is likely to be amended again. Although we do our best keep this page current, we cannot guarantee it contains the latest statement of the law. For that reason, do not rely on any statement of law herein without first confirming the same with an attorney.
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