DUI In Alabama First Offense
If you are like most drivers who are arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) in Alabama, the experience probably marks your first run-in with law enforcement. However, if you assume that having a flawless criminal record means you won’t face any major penalties, think again. DUI is a serious criminal offense—and in an effort to deter the crime, Alabama lawmakers have enacted stringent DUI sentencing guidelines. Unfortunately, this means that even a first offense carries a number of harsh penalties. Here’s what you can expect if you are charged with DUI in Alabama and it is your first offense.
Under Alabama law, legal blood alcohol content (BAC) is .08; at that level or above, you can be charged with driving under the influence (DUI). And don’t kid yourself – even a first offense and conviction can have serious consequences for your life. At the very least, it could mean a suspension of your driver’s license for a period of 90 days, and at worst, it could mean a year in jail. Even the loss of a driver’s license is nothing to laugh at.
Administrative DUI Penalties
The moment you are arrested for driving under the influence, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will automatically suspend your driver’s license. It is important to know that this suspension is an administrative penalty, and is entirely separate from any criminal penalties you will face if you are eventually convicted of the offense. In fact, even if the charges against you are ultimately dismissed, your administrative suspension may still remain in effect. To prevent this from happening, you must request a hearing with the DMV to challenge your suspension—and you have just ten business days from the time you are arrested to file your appeal. Otherwise, your driving privileges will be suspended for the 90 days or more.
Criminal DUI Penalties
In addition to an administrative license suspension, a first DUI conviction carries a mandatory fine and possible jail sentence. Depending on the circumstances of your arrest, the court may order you to pay anywhere from $600 to $2,100 in fees and, although highly unlikely, your sentence could also include up to a year of jail time.
Of course, the consequences of a DUI conviction don’t end once you’ve been sentenced by the courts. As a serious offense, a DUI conviction will permanently appear on your criminal record—which means anyone who checks your background will see that you are a convicted drunk driver. As you can imagine, this can jeopardize countless opportunities in the future—affecting your eligibility for a number of jobs, as well as housing and educational programs.
You can also expect to pay much more for auto insurance if you have a DUI conviction on your record. Many drivers are shocked when their insurance rates are doubled or tripled after their conviction, and some companies may even refuse to insure you at all.
Why You Need an Aggressive Defense, Even For Your First DUI Offense
Fortunately, being arrested for DUI does not necessarily mean you will be convicted of the offense. With the right defense strategy, you may be able to get your charges reduced or dismissed entirely. As a result, it is best to obtain legal representation immediately after your arrest. Our attorneys have helped countless clients across Alabama obtain favorable outcomes in their drunk-driving cases. For a free evaluation of your DUI charges, please complete our online form today.
Think about how this might affect your ability to get to and from your place of work, or how it might complicate visitations in a child custody situation. In the case of people who depend on a commercial driver’s license for their livelihood, the outcome of your case could determine the future of your career. For all these reasons and more, we advise people to seek a seasoned attorney with substantive experience in drunk driving cases as soon as possible. At our Law Firm in Birmingham, Alabama, we have helped many clients get back a license they lost as a result of refusing to take the Breath Test or from blowing a .08 or above.
Field Sobriety Tests
At our Law Firm in Birmingham, Alabama, we closely examine every detail of what transpired during your arrest, to determine whether or not your rights were violated. Our experience with drunk driving cases and our keen understanding of proper law enforcement procedures come into play here, as we re-create the event, beginning with the initial stop.
Justification for the Initial Stop
It may very well be that the field sobriety test itself, regardless of its results, was not justified. This is because the initial stop itself may not have been legally warranted, in which case any evidence gathered by the arresting officer afterwards may be inadmissible in court. And that, of course, would include your field sobriety test.
Field Sobriety Test Results Are Subject to Aggressive Scrutiny and Critique
Finally, it is worth noting that even if the stop was warranted, there are any number of reasons why we might reasonably dispute the accuracy of a field sobriety test. Two elements we always look at are the arresting officer himself and the actual location of the arrest:
- Was the arresting officer properly trained in administering field sobriety tests? Was he overworked (potentially exhausted or distracted) at the time he administered the test, and thus prone to violate procedure?
- Was the location itself a possible variable in your field sobriety test? By that we mean, could you have been taking the test on an uneven terrain that contributed to the appearance of being more impaired than you really were?
These are the kinds of questions the seasoned criminal defense attorneys know to ask. The answers could make all the difference in your case, and in your life.
So you blew into Breath Test and it came back with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or higher. Is it all over? The machine is infallible and it’s time to throw in the towel and plead guilty, right? NO! We have successfully disputed enough breath test results to know one simple truth that we share with all our prospective clients: at the heart of any criminal investigation is the possibility of human error, and that includes on the part of the police department as well. In other words, BREATH TESTS ARE NOT 100% ACCURATE! THE RESULTS OF BREATH TESTS ARE NOT WRITTEN IN STONE!
Proper Operation of a Breath Test
We’ll say it again: the salient issue here is human error. It is the responsibility of the arresting officer to have all the necessary training to adequately prepare and administer the Breath Test. As with any mechanical device, it only takes a small mistake to result in erroneous test results – results that could mean the difference between guilty and not guilty.
Proper Maintenance of a Breath Test
The police department is responsible for maintaining and calibrating the Breath Test to show an accurate BAC. If they are lax in that responsibility, you may find yourself charged with a DUI when you shouldn’t have. This isn’t something you should be expected to know. But the experienced attorneys at our firm who focus day in and day out on drunk driving cases make it a habit to dig deep into such questions when they go to bat for you.
Disputing (and Tossing Out) The Breath Test Results
This is really where it becomes obvious why you shouldn’t try to face this process alone. Everything about it – from the authoritative demeanor of the arresting officer to the cold calculation of the Breath Test – makes the idea of prevailing seem impossible. The system seems so intimidating, so invincible. But we know better. We have successfully disputed many Breath Test results by pursuing many of the avenues you see outlined above, and as a result gotten back drivers licenses for people who initially blew a .08 or above. We’ve also gotten back licenses for people who refused the Breath Test and had their license automatically suspended for 90 days. That’s what years of experience and in-depth knowledge of the law get you. That’s what aggressive research and investigation gets you. That’s the kind of fierce advocacy you get when you have us on your side.
Knowing is Half The Battle…
Too many people try to go it alone, and the experience – especially in the case of first time offenders – can be frightening and confusing. The benefit of having a veteran criminal defense attorney is that he knows what questions to ask right at the beginning:
- Did the arresting officer have justification to stop you in the first place? If not, whatever evidence was gathered afterward may be deemed inadmissible in court.
- Did the arresting officer properly administer the field sobriety test?
- Was the Breathalyzer correctly calibrated and adequately maintained?
- Did the arresting officer have sufficient training to properly administer the Breath Test?
An experienced attorney has the insight to probe these issues and many more, finding chinks in the prosecution’s armor. He has fought this battle many times and won on behalf of his clients. In other words, why throw yourself to the wolves alone when you can have a wolf by your side, fiercely defending your interests?
…and The Other Half is a Good Offense!
The best defense is a good offense. Yes, we know it sounds cliche, but it’s true nevertheless. We are known for our no-holds-barred, pro-active approach to defending our clients, whether this be their first DUI offense or they’re facing the possible of a multiple DUI felony conviction. We’ve pretty much seen it all – enough to know that pleading guilty up front is rarely the wise option. Seek experienced and competent counsel, and suddenly you’ll find you’re not alone.