Knowledgeable Opelika & Auburn Attorneys Answer Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Criminal Law, Family Law & Personal Injury in Alabama
Below are answers to some of the questions our attorneys encounter most frequently as they advise and represent clients on criminal law, family law and personal injury matters in Opelika, Auburn and throughout Lee and Macon counties. We hope the following information is helpful to you. If you have other questions, or if you need immediate assistance, call Alsobrook & Agricola at 334.737.3718 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation with our knowledgeable and helpful attorneys.
Criminal Law FAQs
Can I refuse to take a breath test if I have been pulled over for drunk driving?
Alabama has an implied consent law, which means that as a condition of being granted a driver’s license, you have consented to submit to a chemical test of your blood, breath or urine when you are stopped and suspected of driving under the influence (DUI). The most common test is a breathalyzer administered at the roadside. If you refuse to take this test, you will be arrested for DUI, and you driver’s license will immediately be suspended for 90 days, which is the same as if you had taken the test and blown more than .08% blood alcohol concentration (BAC). The fact that you refused the test can also be used as evidence against you in court.
Keep in mind that a chemical test is different from a field sobriety test, which is not part of the implied consent law. Field sobriety tests are tasks such as walking in a straight line, following a pen moving across your field of vision by moving your eyes and keeping your head still, reciting the alphabet backwards, etc. Some of these tests are standard and generally accepted as scientific, while others are not. When the police ask you to take one of these tests, they are trying to establish probable cause to force you to take a breathalyzer. Some of these tests are subjective and are designed for you to fail. You can refuse to take these field tests, and if the police administer a breathalyzer without probable cause, it may be possible to have your case dismissed.
Also, remember that you can challenge your driver’s license suspension in a hearing before the DMV, but you have to request your hearing within ten days of the suspension. If you choose to fight the suspension, our criminal defense lawyers can represent you in the DMV hearing.
Do I have to let the police search my car if I get pulled over?
It depends on why you were pulled over and the reason the police have to search you. The Constitution requires that all searches be reasonable. In most cases, the police must have “probable cause” to search, and often a warrant is required. However, there are many exceptions to the warrant requirement, and a search of an automobile is generally one of them. The best course is to understand whether the police are asking for your permission to search or not. The police don’t even need probable cause for a search if you consent to it, and so they may ask your permission to search your car. There is no good reason to allow this, even if you have nothing to hide.
On the other hand, if the police tell you they have to cause to search, even if you disagree with them, you should not try to argue, resist or obstruct them. Instead, relate the incident to your attorney. If the search was unlawful, your lawyer will argue to have the evidence suppressed or have the charges dropped and the case dismissed.
Family Law FAQs
How can I stop my ex from taking the kids and moving out of state?
Under Alabama law, a parent with custody or visitation rights cannot relocate more than 60 miles away from the other parent – with or without the child – without first giving notice to the other parent of the intent to relocate. Once you are served with this notice, you have 30 days to object to the relocation. If you object, a hearing will be held on the move-away, and the parent who wishes to move will generally have to prove that the move is in the best interest of the child. The court can decide either to allow or prevent the move.
If a parent relocates without complying with the law, the judge can order the return of the child and charge the parent with contempt of court. The judge may also decide to change the child custody and child support orders currently in place.
Grandparents with visitation rights cannot object to a move-away, but they can file with the court for a revised visitation schedule.
How does a prenuptial agreement work?
A valid prenuptial agreement is enforceable like any contract. A prenuptial agreement is entered into before marriage outlining what will happen in the event of separation or divorce. Most often, these agreements address whether any spousal support (alimony) will be paid, and how certain assets will be divided. Some issues, such as child custody and support, generally cannot be determined in advance through a prenup.
To be valid, a prenuptial agreement must be based on a full financial disclosure by both parties, and both parties must have the opportunity to review the agreement before voluntarily signing it, free of any coercion. Prenuptial agreements can be a valuable tool to enable any couple to enter a marriage with security and peace of mind, but they are especially favored by couples who have been married (and divorced) before, or where there is a significant difference in the financial status of the couple prior to marriage.
How quickly can I get divorced?
The law requires a minimum of 30 days to pass between the time a complaint is filed and when the divorce is granted. Of course, if there is a disagreement over any issues in the divorce, such as child custody, child support, spousal support or the division of property, the process may take several months longer, particularly if these matters need to be litigated in court.
As much as you may want the divorce to be over with quickly, it is more important that you make the right decisions for yourself and your children, as divorce orders are final and affect you for years to come. Interim orders for custody and support and the possession of the home can be made while the divorce is pending, so there is no need to rush the divorce at the expense of your legal rights and best interests.
Personal Injury FAQs
If I was partially to blame in causing the accident, can I still recover any compensation from the other negligent driver?
Alabama is one of only a handful of states that says no. In most states, your own comparative negligence only reduces the amount you may recover, or only prohibits a recovery if you are 50% or more at fault, but in Alabama, any “contributory negligence” on your part means you cannot recover a penny for your injuries. Insurance companies of course know this and will try to place some of the blame for the accident on you so they can avoid having to pay. It is very important to hire strong, effective personal injury attorneys who know how to investigate an accident, prepare and present a persuasive case, and staunchly oppose any attempts by the insurance company to unfairly paint you as responsible for the accident in some way.
How long does it take to recover compensation from the insurance company after a car or truck accident?
The insurance company will probably offer you a settlement right away, but be careful, because unless you are represented by experienced trial attorneys who are not afraid to go to court, the offer from the insurance company will be substantially less than your claim is actually worth. Most personal injury attorneys will not even begin serious settlement talks until you are pronounced “medically stationary” by your doctors, which may be several months after the accident. While it may take a year or more if the case goes to trial, almost all cases settle sometime before an actual trial takes place.
How long do I have to file a personal injury lawsuit?
In most cases, you have two years from the date of the injury, although the limitations period may be longer or shorter if the case involves medical malpractice, if the injury victim is a minor, or if the accident involved a government vehicle/public employee or a slip and fall on government property. Be sure to contact a knowledgeable personal injury attorney soon after an accident to preserve valuable evidence, protect your rights, and make sure that the applicable statute of limitations and other important court deadlines are not missed.