By, Phillip B. Price, Sr. ©
The Alabama legislature passed two new DUI laws during the 2018 legislative session. The first law (Act No. 2018-546) changed the “look-back” period to determine whether a DUI conviction is a 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th and so-on conviction. The look back period is now, as of July 1, 2018, 10 years from the date of the new DUI arrest. Prior law had the look back period of 5 years and the 5 years was computed from conviction date to conviction date. Also, the new law states that anyone arrested for DUI after July 1, 2018 who has a prior felony DUI conviction at any time in their past, will be automatically charged as a felony DUI in the post July 1, 2018 DUI arrest.
The other new DUI law (Act No. 2018-517) has several DUI related interlock changes. It was obviously a result of interlock lobbying efforts in the Alabama legislature. The most significant new law is one that says that anyone who undergoes a diversion program or similar program shall be required to install an ignition interlock device for a minimum of six months or the duration of the pretrial diversion program, whichever is greater”. (§32-5A-191(y)(1) Act No. 2018-517, p. 24.) People who choose to do this can have their driver license suspension stayed and commuted. There are several other interlock changes, many of which are reductions in the time that convicted DUI offenders will be obligated to have an interlock installed on their vehicle.
Utah is poised to be the first state in the country to adopt .05 as the standard for driving under the influence of alcohol. Alabama’s DUI law could see the same change in the future. The Los Angeles Times is reporting that legislators in Utah have passed a law lowering the legal BAC for drivers to .05. It is expected that the governor will sign it into law. For many years now .08 has been the legal standard in all 50 states. Before that, .10 was the ubiquitous standard in America. The .05 standard has become the predominant legal limit throughout much of Europe, and the National Transportation Safety Board has been pushing for the stricter standard for years. This is just the first domino. We will likely see the .05 standard enacted in other states, including potentially Alabama in a the next few years.
From 1999 through the first half of 2016, Alabama exclusively used the Draeger 7110 MK-III for breath alcohol testing throughout the state. That is changing. The Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences (DFS) is now implementing a new breath alcohol testing device, the Intoximeter Datamaster DMT-FC. It will be in use very soon; the latter part of 2016 or early 2017. The device, which we will refer to as the DMT for brevity, was manufactured originally at National Patent Analytical Systems (NPAS), located in Mansfield, Ohio. Intoximeters, Inc. bought the breath test section of NPAS and will be the supplier of the devices to the state. Intoximeters, Inc. has added a fuel cell to the DMT along with some other tweaks for Alabama. The photo above is the Alabama version of the DMT. It claims to have duel technology, both infrared and electrochemical. It has a touchscreen, an electronic driver’s license reader, and a keyboard. There are three canisters of dry gas for calibration checks at three alcohol content levels. There will be a calibration check (cal-check) for all tests at a .02%. If a person blows a reading of .15% or higher, another cal-check will be done from a .15% dry gas canister. If a person blows a reading of below .15%, then the second cal-check will be done from the .08% canister. As the name “Datamaster” implies, the device will accumulate and store a lot of data, which is capable of being retrieved at a later time. Unlike its predecessor, there will be no breath temperature correction on the Alabama DMT, but there will be a reduction of every test result of approximately 10 per cent. The DMT also has shielding for radio frequency interference (RFI) as well as an external antenna for picking up any RFI.
The DMT for Alabama has an added feature that is not included on DMT machines in any other state. This added feature is an electrochemical fuel cell added in an effort to have a “duel technology” device. The Alabama DMT is known as the DMT-FC. The FC stands for fuel cell.
As of this writing in October of 2016, approximately 26 Datamaster DMT-FC breath-test devices are in the hands of the Department of Forensic Sciences, and more are on the way. One could say with a straight face that Alabama is reverting to 1970’s technology in the breath-testing program. Alabama is going back to the 3.5 micron wavelength measurement area on the infrared spectra and back to using the chopper wheel for breaking up the signal, both of which it had moved away from when it adopted the Draeger in 1999. Technology continues to change and more and more information can be retained by the software and retrieved long after a citizen takes a breath test.
One of the reasons for Alabama’s change from Draeger to Datamaster is the lack of availability of parts for the aging Draeger Alcotest 7110 devices. The state of Alabama has been using the Draeger since 1999. We will soon have new issues to defend on this new piece of equipment.
According to Alabama DUI defense attorney Phil Price, throughout 2016, he and his law partners have continued to see many people seeking to clean up their Alabama criminal record through Alabama’s expungement law. His firm has been able to get expungements for many of these people, often quite quickly and for much less than what they thought it would cost.
Prior to a couple years ago, Alabama did not have a true expungement law. Old arrests and charges remained on a person’s record forever. That has now changed. Now most criminal charges are eligible for an expungement proceeding, provided the charge was dismissed, nolle prossed, or the person was acquitted.
Having a record of an arrest or criminal charge can make it more difficult to find a good job and can prove an embarrassment, even where the charge is ultimately resolved in your favor. Having that old arrest and charge expunged from your record can help. However, getting a charge expunged is not guaranteed. The district attorney and any “victim” can object to the court granting the charge, and the judge ultimately makes the decision whether or not to grant an expungement. Having a attorney who knows the law to help you each step of the process can help maximize your change of success.
A quick call to Price, Flowers & Ward Law Firm for quick, free, no obligation, phone consultation can help you determine if an expungement proceeding is right for you. Call today at 256-536-6000.
The 2015-16 version of the Alabama DUI Handbook has arrived just in time for the holiday! This comprehensive DUI practice guide written by nationally renowned DUI defense attorney Phillip B. Price contains a wealth of information and practice material. Over the years it has proven an invaluable resource for Alabama attorneys who represents those accused of DUI. It is available for purchase through Thomson Reuters at http://legalsolutions.thomsonreuters.com/law-products/Treatises/Alabama-DUI-Handbook-2015-2016-ed/p/101130013. You can also get more information about the book at www.alabamaduihandbook.com.
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