It is a serious offense to drive under the influence (DUI) in Alabama. A driver who is stopped on suspicion of DUI and subsequently blows above 0.08 on a breath tester device will be placed under arrest. Whether it was your first or fifth offense does not make a difference. In all cases, your blood alcohol content (BAC) must not exceed 0.08 when you are operating a vehicle. The penalties associated with a DUI charge include license suspension, fine, and/or imprisonment. There are various “do’s” and “don’ts” to follow when stopped for a suspected DUI and subsequent arrest in Auburn, AL:
Always Pull Over for an Officer
It is vital that you never try to run away from a traffic stop when a law enforcement officer activates their lights behind you. Your attempt to escape or your refusal to pull over will only make matters worse. Whether you are intoxicated or not, it is crucial to stop for an officer who signals you to pull over. The officer will observe you for any behavior that could be included in the police report from the minute they decide to pull you over.
Be Polite and Follow Instructions
Following the instructions given by the police officer is vital; otherwise, you could be placed under arrest before any tests are undertaken for a suspected DUI. When talking to the officer, you must be courteous, regardless of how they treat you. Upon being instructed to turn off your car and exit the vehicle, you must do so in a prompt manner without any sudden movements. If the officer asks you a question about how much you have had to drink, do not answer in a disrespectful or patronizing manner.
Do Not Incriminate Yourself
If you are pulled over by a police officer during a DUI traffic stop, avoid giving information that could incriminate you. You are only required to provide your name, registration, driver’s license, and car insurance, and are not legally required to provide any other details. Rather than being impolite or ignoring the law enforcement officer, you could simply tell them that you do not want to answer any other questions unless your lawyer is present. In this case, the officer will not have as much opportunity to collect evidence that could incriminate you.
Do Not Refuse the Chemical Test after the Arrest
The “implied consent” law in Alabama requires you to undergo a chemical (breath, blood, urine) test if there is probable cause to arrest you for DUI. If you refuse to take this test, it can lead to an automatic driver’s license suspension, apart from other increased penalties. If you refuse to submit to a chemical test, the prosecutor can use it as evidence to argue in court that you are guilty as charged.
The DUI Process after your Arrest in Auburn, AL
There are several steps involved in the DUI process in Alabama after being arrested: Arraignment In this initial court appearance following arrest, a judge will read your charges. Then you will be asked to enter a plea, which could be guilty, not guilty, or no contest. Preliminary hearing Upon being charged with a crime in Alabama, the defendant has the right to request a preliminary hearing. During this hearing, the judge will assess the facts of the case, including the circumstances of the arrest. They will establish whether there is adequate evidence to take the case to trial. If there is insufficient proof, they might dismiss the case. Possible trial and appeal If there is adequate evidence and you enter a plea of not guilty, your case might go to trial. This is a time-consuming process that you should discuss in detail with your criminal defense lawyer. It is within your rights to appeal to the court’s decision if you receive a guilty verdict at trial. Many individuals wrongly believe that if their breath test results indicated a level above a legal limit, they would automatically be found guilty. But this is not necessarily true. Various aspects can weaken a criminal case. To understand the most appropriate DUI defense options for your specific situation, it is judicious to consult an experienced DUI lawyer in Auburn, AL, at the earliest after your arrest.
Misdemeanor vs. Felony DUI in Auburn, AL
In the majority of cases, someone who is arrested for DUI in Alabama will be charged with a misdemeanor. With a misdemeanor DUI, you will be looking at fines starting at $600 if this is your first offense, an administrative driver’s license suspension which starts at 90 days, and a maximum of one year in county jail. In reality, however, you can usually avoid jail time for a first offense if you do community service or successfully complete a DUI diversion program.
As we touched on previously, if your DUI is upgraded to a felony, you will be facing far more severe consequences. But the good news is that most Alabama drivers will not be charged with a felony DUI.
Even if this is your second or third offense, you will still probably only be charged with a misdemeanor. And even aggravated circumstances such as refusing to take the mandatory chemical (breath, blood, or urine) test after your DUI arrest, child endangerment, or a DUI accident with serious injuries does not automatically upgrade your charge to a felony.
The one thing that will automatically trigger a felony DUI charge is if this is your fourth or subsequent offense within the past 10 years. The look back period in Alabama used to be five years, but the law was changed to 10 years in 2018. In addition, if you have a prior felony conviction at any time in your past – even 30 years ago – you will be charged with a felony DUI under the new law.
Penalties for a Felony DUI in Alabama
Here are the penalties you will be facing if you are charged with a felony DUI in Auburn:
- Fines starting at $4,100 up to a maximum of $10,100;
- A minimum of one year and one day up to a maximum of 10 years in state prison;
- Driver’s license revocation for a minimum of five years;
- Installation of an ignition interlock device in the vehicle for five years after your driver’s license is reinstated;
- The requirement to complete a certified chemical dependency program.
Having a felony conviction on your record can adversely impact your future in several other ways as well. For example, being a convicted felon can make it more difficult to obtain housing, employment, financing, admission to college, and firearms. And if this happens while you are a student at Auburn or another nearby college, you could end up getting expelled from school.
In some cases, a felony DUI could even cost someone their livelihood. For example, if your occupation requires a professional license, your license could be suspended, or you may not be able to renew it with the felony on your record. The same holds true for someone who drives for a living and requires a commercial license to maintain their position.
Legal Assistance from a Skilled DUI Defense Attorney in Auburn, AL
Many people in Alabama who are arrested on DUI charges wonder whether consulting a DUI lawyer will make a difference in their case. It is understandable to question if an attorney can help when law enforcement and prosecution already have evidence that you were above the legal limit. The state may have sufficient proof against you, but there are often limitations in their case that are not readily apparent. An experienced DUI attorney at the Alsobrook Law Group can evaluate the specific nuances of your case and build a robust defense strategy to reduce the adverse consequences as far as possible. Call today at (334) 737-3718 for a private and discreet consultation with one of our attorneys.