By, Phillip B. Price, Sr. ©, DUI Board Certified in DUI Defense Attorney
Most everyone knows what a DUI charge is. Most DUI’s are alcohol related. Simply put, one is arrested for DUI when the police claim that the person had too much alcohol to drink. In Alabama, there are currently 5 different ways to charge someone with driving under the influence (DUI). They are:
- Driving with a blood alcohol level of .08% or greater
- Driving after drinking alcohol to the point that the alcohol makes you an unsafe driver.
- Driving under the influence of a controlled substance
- Driving under the combined influence of alcohol and a controlled substance
- Driving under the influence of any substance that renders you incapable of safely driving
The penalties include the possibility of the loss of one’s driver’s license, possible jail, probation, counseling and/or treatment, fines, along with many other fees and secondary effects on one’s life.
I have been a DUI defense lawyer for over 35 years. I have seen the “legal” system make several changes in the DUI arena. There was a period of time when we could not settle a DUI case. You either pled guilty or went to trial. I have tried many, many DUI cases in my career; more than any other attorney north of Montgomery, Alabama, I would surmise. At one point, a circuit judge made me try 3 DUI jury trials in a row: one right after the other in the same week. Luckily, the juries in all three cases rendered “not guilty” verdicts! My point here is that I have seen the DUI “system” and laws change over the many years that I have been handling them.
One thing that has happened in the last decade is that there has been an increase in the number of “diversion” programs. “Diversion” basically means an alternative to being convicted after compliance with many court-sponsored obligations. In 2013 the Alabama legislature passed an act that authorized municipalities to establish a “pre-trial diversion program”, in lieu of prosecuting the DUI case. Some cities around the state did so and some did not. A diversion program, generally speaking, means that one accused of DUI pleads guilty to the DUI, and the judge does not impose judgment or sentence. Meanwhile, the person charged with DUI does certain things, including but not limited to: counseling, treatment, community service, Victim Impact Panel, so-called “color-coding”, among many other possible requirements. If the person successfully completes the program, he or she gets their DUI case dismissed upon the payment of many fees and court costs. If the person fails with any aspect of the program, they are automatically up for automatic conviction and will suffer the consequences thereof.
The City of Huntsville, Alabama passed diversion ordinance No. 13-845 in October of 2013. The city, at that time determined that the persons who would qualify for the benefits of diversion would be limited to those who took the breath test and scored below .12% BAC. If you refused the breath test or blew .12% BAC or greater, you did not qualify for the City of Huntsville diversion program. The City of Huntsville is presently in the process of passing a brand-new “diversion program”. Under the diversion program being presently considered by the Huntsville governing body, includes DUI offenders whose blood alcohol content is as high as .149% BAC. It also allows the new diversion program to those DUI arrestees who refused to take the breath test altogether. It does not exclude people who have been previously arrested for DUI.
So, it is a “no brainer” that the citizen accused of DUI should accept the diversion program with the City of Huntsville, right? NOT SO FAST! SEEK THE ADVICE OF AN EXPERIENCED DUI ATTORNEY! WHY? Keep reading.
2018 Alabama Interlock Law
In 2018, the Alabama legislature, at the “encouragement” of interlock lobbyists, passed a bill that requires any person who enters a diversion, or similar program, to install an interlock device on his or her vehicle for period of six months, or the length of the diversion program, whichever is longer. There is a fee for installation, a monthly fee for maintenance, along with other fees associated with the device. The interlock device is not specific for ethyl alcohol and it will beep intermittently and one must find a place to pull over and blow or the vehicle will go dead and will not start. One must normally blow into the interlock device and show a BAC under a .02%.
Administration Driver’s License Suspension
Typically, in every DUI arrest, the citizen will either refuse the breath test or take it and blow over .08% BAC. In most cases, the citizen will have his or her driver’s license confiscated and will also undergo a suspension of the driver’s license for a period of time. This can occur even if the person is undergoing diversion unless action is taken. There ARE things that can be done to keep this from happening in many/most cases.
Failing the Diversion Program means DUI conviction
Under the terms of the City of Huntsville’s proposed diversion ordinance, one has to plead guilty in the record in order to get diversion. If one messes up, the court can automatically impose a DUI conviction that the person pled guilty to in order to get diversion.
Effects of Guilty Plea
In certain circumstances, a mere plea of guilty, or an admission of guilt, can have negative ramifications. This is true even if the person is NOT convicted of the DUI that he or she had previously admitted to. The two circumstances that immediately come to mind are those associated with CDL holders and Immigrants. There are other circumstances as well that the mere admission of being under the influence can cause negative consequences.
There are diversion programs within the Alabama DUI litigation system. Most of the comments made herein apply to other diversion programs in the state as well as the diversion program proposed by the City of Huntsville, Alabama. Whether to undergo the particular program requires a detailed analysis. Price and Flowers Law Firm stands ready and able to help you with your DUI decisions. YOU MUST GET YOUR CASE EVALUATED EARLY! This written and submitted by: DUI defense attorney, Phillip B. Price, Sr., who is the ONLY attorney in North Alabama that is “Board Certified in DUI Defense” by the National College for DUI Defense, as sanctioned by the American Bar Association for the certification.