OPELIKA DUI ATTORNEYS
Drivers who drink and drive in Opelika now face stiffer penalties. This is particularly true for those who are repeat offenders, who now face even heavier fines and mandatory jail time. A DUI charge can occur in an instant, and the consequences can be far-reaching if you don’t act quickly to protect your rights.
At the law offices of Alsobrook Law Group our experienced Alabama DUI attorneys understand what it takes to effectively represent someone who has been charged with impaired driving. Many citizens who are accused of drunk driving in Alabama find themselves in a situation that is both confusing and frightening.
Make no mistake, a DUI in Alabama is serious and trying to handle a case like this on your own is a bad idea. Without quality legal representation, you could end up facing punishment for a DUI that is entirely unnecessary.
Serious Consequences for a DUI in Opelika, AL
According to Alabama’s DUI law (Alabama code §32-5A-191), a person is considered to be under the influence if their blood alcohol level is .08% or greater. If you are a minor, day care driver, or school bus driver and are arrested for a DUI, the threshold is .02% or greater. The threshold for a driver of a commercial vehicle is .04%.
Most people who are arrested for DUI in Alabama will lose their driver’s license on the spot. If this has happened to you, we have just ten days to request a hearing asking that the state stop the suspension of your driver’s license. This is a separate matter from your DUI case, but must be dealt with as soon as possible if you wish to maintain your driving privileges.
Alabama’s DUI penalties have increased with new laws in the just past several years. The first, second, and third DUI offenses are still considered misdemeanors and the charges are elevated to felony status with the fourth offense. Alabama’s “look-back” period is five years, which means that, if more than five years have passed from any U.S. DUI conviction, the next is considered a first offense.
A first DUI offense is punishable by up to one-year in jail, with probation as a possibility. You can be fined from $600 to $2,100 plus court costs and will be required to attend a substance abuse evaluation and treatment. You will also either receive a 90-day driver’s license suspension or will be required to have an ignition interlock device on your vehicle for six months.
A second DUI offense requires a minimum of five days in jail or 30 days of community service. The jail sentence has a maximum term of one year. You can be fined from $1,100 to $5,1000 plus court costs, and substance abuse treatment is again a requirement. Your license can be suspended for one year, and you may be required to have an ignition interlock on your vehicle for as long as two years.
A third DUI offense is punishable by a 60-day mandatory jail sentence and total jail time up to one year. Your fines can range from $2,100 to $10,000 plus court costs, and you will be required to completed a court-ordered substance abuse program. Your license will be revoked for up to three years in addition to three years of ignition interlock.
A fourth DUI offense is a Class “C” felony in Alabama. Jail time begins with a mandatory ten days and can go up to ten years in state prison if convicted of felony DUI. Fines for an Alabama felony DUI can range from $4,100 to $10,100 plus court costs. The offender must complete a State-Certified Chemical Dependency Program. Your license will be revoked for five years with up to five years of ignition interlock.
There are some instances in which these punishments become even harsher. All fines and minimum punishments will be doubled if a DUI test result is .15% or greater. Also, “aggravating circumstances” will require that an ignition interlock device is installed on your vehicle, even for a first DUI offense. These types of situations include having children under the age of 14 in the vehicle, involvement in an accident resulting in injuries, refusing to submit to a breath test, and a test result greater than .15%.
Judges in Alabama DUI cases can use discretion when applying the range of sentencing options in these cases. This is just one of the many reasons that having a skilled and experienced Alabama DUI attorney in your corner is so beneficial.
The DUI Traffic Stop
Alabama has what is known as an “Implied Consent Law.” Under this law, any motorist that is pulled over under suspicion of impaired driving must agree to a chemical test when asked. In essence, you have given this “consent” in exchange for being allowed to drive in the state of Alabama.
Should you refuse to give a chemical test when asked, your license will be automatically revoked for 90 days. The 90-day revocation is in addition to any other penalties which might result from a DUI conviction. Also, while some drivers can request an emergency hearing within ten days to get a restricted license, this won’t be possible for a license revocation due to the refusal of an evidentiary test.
Another consequence of refusing to submit to a chemical test is that the state can use this refusal as evidence, calling it an implied admission of guilt. Hopefully, you’ve engaged an experienced and aggressive Alabama DUI attorney that will challenge this as there could be valid arguments for refusing a test.
A field sobriety test is completely different from a chemical test. As the accused, you have no legal obligation to submit to this subjective test and are better off politely declining. Even stone cold sober, you have a high chance of failing one of these tests if you are over the age of 40, overweight, are on legal prescription medications, or have any sort of physical or mental impairment. While it’s tempting to cooperate with law enforcement officers when you feel as if you’ve done nothing wrong, the risk of failing one of these fallible tests is simply too great.
Why Time Isn’t on Your Side After a DUI Arrest
Once you’ve been arrested for a DUI in Alabama, there’s a good chance that your driver’s license will be taken and suspended immediately. If you drive to work or have other family obligations, this is probably both inconvenient and terrifying.
Fortunately, you can appeal this automatic suspension but must do so quickly. Your best chance of receiving a restricted license is to have your Alabama DUI attorney request and attend a hearing on your behalf. This hearing request must be submitted within ten days of your arrest. If you miss this deadline, the automatic 90-day suspension cannot be changed.
It’s also possible that even first-time DUI offenders can be ordered to have an ignition interlock device installed on their vehicle. These devices are inconvenient, expensive, and embarrassing. A skilled DUI attorney can fight for your rights and give you the best chance of avoiding costly and cumbersome consequences. The longer you delay seeking help for your case, the more difficult it will be to shield you from some of these harsh penalties.
What to Do if You’re Pulled Over for DUI in Alabama
There are several “dos” and “don’ts” to follow during a DUI stop and subsequent arrest:
Do be Respectful
When you are pulled over for DUI, it is understandable to be rattled and shaken. However, do your best to stay calm and maintain your composure. No matter how the officer is treating you, it is always in your best interests be polite, courteous, and respectful. Never be rude to an officer, and if they ask you to step out of the car, comply with their request without complaint. The way you conduct yourself at the initial stop could be helpful later on in negotiating a deal with the prosecutor.
Do Provide the Required Information
There are three pieces of information you are required to provide a police officer when you are stopped; your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance. Have these documents ready to hand over to the officer when he/she approaches your vehicle. Try to avoid having to fish around for this information when the officer is at your window. Provide the required information when the officer asks for it, then place both hands on the steering wheel where the officer can see them.
Don’t Answer Additional Questions
After you have provided the officer with the required information, you are under no obligation to answer any further questions. It is important to understand that if an officer pulls you over for DUI, they already suspect that you are guilty. The questions they ask you may seem like “small talk”, but they are designed to obtain probable cause for a DUI arrest. If an officer asks you how much you have had to drink, do not give them an answer like, “just a couple of beers.” Do not admit to any type of guilt at all. Instead, politely decline to answer the question and let the officer know that you need to speak with your attorney first.
Don’t Submit to a Field Sobriety Test (FST)
Field sobriety tests are those that are conducted at the roadside during a DUI stop. Examples may include walking a straight line, standing on one leg, or following an object with your eyes. Preliminary alcohol screenings (PAS) are another type of FST that help establish your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at the time you are pulled over. In general, there is no good reason to submit to a field sobriety test unless you are absolutely certain that you are under the legal limit of .08 BAC. Without the results from an FST, there is less evidence that can be used against you to establish probable cause for the arrest and eventually obtain a conviction.
Sidewalks and Roadways are Never “Level” by Design
The gradient and slope of a road or sidewalk are designed to disperse water away from the surface. Thus, when requested to perform one of the two divided attention field sobriety tests, namely OLS or WAT, there is a high possibility of you making a minor misstep or miscue due to the non-level surface, which may be erroneously seen by law enforcement as “impairment.”
No “Age Adjustment” for NHTSA Standardized Field Sobriety Tests
Age is an important “human factor.” According to one British study regarding the use of walk and turn (WAT) and one-leg stand (OLS), 50 percent of people aged 40 years or older cannot perform WAT or OLS maneuvers even when totally sober. Older people are more likely to fail these assessments.
Erroneous WAT and OLS Test Outcomes due to Physical Limitations
A person should be disqualified from being given WAT and OLS tests if they suffer from physical impairment because of a past injury, prior surgery, eating disorders, congenital defects, brain damage, or vertigo. However, there are no such guidelines asking an officer to use common sense in NHTSA manuals.
The HGN test administered on an Auburn, AL resident with prior eye surgery, a glass eye, medication-induced nystagmus, or a chronic eye condition can never yield correct results. The NHTSA training manuals do not offer police officers any guidance on not using the HGN test for subjects who report any type of medical concerns with their eyes. In addition, no “reported” eye conditions will dissuade an Alabama police officer from performing this pre-arrest test.
Various other Medical Issues or Concerns Cause HGN
Some conditions that can make “passing” the field sobriety test impossible are previous head injury, mental disorder, or mental impairment. For instance, an individual with ADD, ADHD, or a similar condition that affects memory will never be able to listen to the complicated instructions and perform WAT or OLS test like a “normal” person.
Do Submit to the Chemical Test after the Arrest
Under Alabama’s “implied consent” law, you are required to submit to a chemical (breath, blood or urine) test if probable cause is found to place you under arrest for DUI. Refusal to take this test can result in an automatic suspension of your driver’s license along with other enhanced penalties. Your refusal may also be used as evidence by the prosecutor to argue to the jury that you are guilty of what you are charged with.
Strategies for Avoiding a DUI Conviction
Just because you’ve been arrested for a DUI doesn’t necessarily mean that you will end up with a conviction. A DUI conviction can seriously impact both your life today and your future, so it’s important that you take every means necessary to avoid this outcome.
There are any number of defenses to an Alabama DUI case that can either get your case dismissed or reduced to a lesser charge. If you’re thinking of saving money and time by pleading your own case or attempting to handle this without an Alabama criminal defense attorney, you’re doing yourself a grave disservice.
Some of the possible defenses we’ve used in these complex cases include uncovering evidence of an improper traffic stop and failure to advise the accused of their rights. Few people realize the many issues with field sobriety tests and even toxicology tests. Under the right circumstances, we can have these test results either thrown out or discredited in order to help your case.
If you are a first-time offender, there may also be pretrial diversion programs in your community that will allow you to completely avoid the criminal courts and put this experience in the past.
Only an experienced Alabama DUI lawyer can thoroughly evaluate your situation and identify the best ways to shield you from the consequences of a DUI conviction. Our Opelika, Alabama DUI firm will take the time to listen to your concerns, explain the legal issues in your case, and come up with the best plan for resolution.
Our passionate and experienced Opelika DUI attorneys can help you stand up for your rights and will help you work towards the best possible result.
Contact the Opelika, AL experienced DUI attorneys at The Alsobrook Law Group today at (334) 737-3718 or contact us online to discuss your case through a free consultation. We also handle commercial dui cases in Auburn. Remember, your license and driving privileges are on the line, so time is short to take action on your DUI case.
We also handle DUI cases in Auburn.