HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — There are a bunch of moving parts in DUI cases. The consequences are severe for even first-time offenders, but repeat offenders see heightened consequences in Alabama.
Huntsville defense attorney Erin Atkins told News 19 there’s one goal: deterrence.
“A lot of people know about driving under the influence of alcohol,” she said. “But with the rise of controlled substances, you can also be considered guilty of driving under the influence of a substance.”
New methods of sobriety testing are being developed.
“This is fairly new where they are now starting to try to test for substances in the person’s system other than just alcohol,” Atkins said. “You know, we’re used to the breathalyzer this is different.”
A first DUI is a misdemeanor.
Atkins said a first office may not lead to jail time, but has other penalties.
“You know, if you’re convicted technically, you’re looking at jail time up to a year,” she said. “In most cases, you’re not going to see jail time, but you will see a suspended license for 90 days. And you can look at a penalty of $600 to about a $2,000 fine.”
From that point, a 10-year observation period begins.
“So if you got a DUI nine years and 11 months ago, and you get a second offense, your time is still tolling so that would be considered a second offense and 10 years,” Atkins said.
A second DUI conviction ups the consequences.
With the second conviction, she said the consequences begin to pile up.
“You’re looking at jail up until about a year, you get a mandatory imprisonment time at that point for five days,” Atkins said. “The fine increases from where before, $600 to $2,000. Now it’s $1000 to $5,000 and your license is suspended for a year at that point.”
A third conviction?
Atkins said a further third conviction makes for longer mandatory jail time and even bigger fines.
“You have a 60-day mandatory time to serve in jail,” she said You get your license suspended for three years plus the ignition interlock device, and you’re looking at up to $10,000 in fines.”
To be clear, all DUI convictions result in an ignition interlock system being installed in your car for a period of time. That device requires the driver to blow into a breathalyzer before the car will turn on.
After the third DUI in a 10-year period, any subsequent DUI becomes a Class C felony offense.
Even underage drinkers are susceptible to DUI charges.
“A person who is under the age of 21 would be considered under the influence at a .02 blood alcohol level, whereas an adult is .08,” Atkins said. “So if you are pulled over under 21, and you blow even a .01 or .02, that will be sufficient for a conviction of a DUI.”
More severe violations call for the harshest of consequences.
If someone dies as a result of your driving under the influence, in Alabama you could be charged with DUI murder. A conviction carries a sentence of 20 years to life in prison.