Alabama Interlock Device Law

When you are convicted of a DUI, there are a number of criminal sanctions that may be imposed including the suspension of your driver’s license and a term of incarceration. One additional sanction that you may face in Alabama is the required installation of an ignition interlock device.

The installation of an ignition interlock device can be expensive and burdensome, and the ongoing monitoring can be embarrassing and annoying for other family members or friends who may wish to use your vehicle. When you are convicted of certain first-time DUI offenses or when you are a repeat DUI offender, you may have no choice but to have an ignition interlock device installed in all vehicles you use. Avoiding this is possible only if you avoid a DUI conviction.

Alabama Laws on Ignition Interlock Devices

In 2011, Alabama implemented the interlock device (Act 2011-613) even on a first DUI conviction if there was 1) a refusal of the breath test OR 2) a motorist blew .15 or higher. However, the 2012 Act 2012-363, rescinded this. No matter how high a person’s breath test is, the interlock device would not be required upon conviction. The only exception is if there was a child 14 or younger in the car at the time of the DUI. There, an interlock is required no matter what the BAC is upon conviction.

Interlock Device Alabama
Interlock Device in Alabama

A second or subsequent conviction within 5 years requires the interlock device regardless of breath test results.

It seems on many fronts that the Alabama legislature is trying to provide incentives for motorists to take the breath test upon arrest. The rationale is obvious: the prosecution generally believes a breath test makes their case stronger. To date, the data is inconclusive on whether the interlock laws are providing deterrence for drivers in Alabama.

The interlock law presents a whole new set of issues in DUI law in Alabama. It will take several posts to cover the issues. But here are the nuts and bolts:

  1. If a person is convicted of a first-time DUI and
  2. has a BAC of .15 or more OR
  3. refuses to provide BAC OR
  4. a child under 14 is in the car OR
  5. someone else is injured

Then the driver’s license shall be suspended and an interlock device to be installed for 2 years. An interlock device requires that person to “blow” into the device to determine if the driver has consumed alcohol. If there is a violation of the interlock conditions then the device must remain in the car for an additional six months.

If a person is convicted of a second DUI within five years (regardless of a-d above) then the interlock device must be installed for three years.

Another big impact is the cost of the device. It is manufactured by a private company that stands to make tens of millions of dollars in the next few years.

The impact of the interlock device and the “double minimum punishment” highlights even the greater need to contact an experienced DUI defense attorney.

Interlock Device Example

So envision this scenario: a traveling sales rep has an after-work meeting with clients. He/she consumes a couple of drinks and gets pulled over on the way home. The police officer administers the purely subjective field sobriety tests (which almost every time they are given the driver “fails”). He/she is arrested (remember an arrest must be made before a breath test is given) and the driver refuses to take the breath test.

In court, the only thing needed for a conviction is the officer’s opinion that the driver was “intoxicated to the point where he/she cannot operate a motor vehicle safely.” So the defendant goes to court without a lawyer. The Municipal prosecutor says you can just plead guilty and have the case over without jail time. The defendant signs a “waiver of counsel.” Well, the driver now has to have an interlock device installed for two years.

Or a defendant hires a lawyer who doesn’t regularly practice DUI defense. That lawyer advises them to “simply plead guilty” because “you will just have to go to some classes and pay a fine.”

So a law-abiding citizen who has never been in trouble his/her life has the embarrassment, burden, and loss of a job because of this new law.

And do the police have more incentive to make DUI arrests with a citizen facing stiffer penalties? Does it generate more money for the local government? How does that affect the officer when administering the supposedly subjective field sobriety test? Common sense answers all of these questions.

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