Alabama DUI penalties have increased significantly in recent years. For example, if a child or young person under the age of 14 was present in the vehicle at the time of the arrest, and the motorist is convicted of DUI, the trial court is required by statute to impose “double the minimum punishment” upon conviction. Fines and mandatory jail sentences have significantly increased during the past decade, and in every case, conviction of DUI will result in suspension or revocation of driver license.
The offense of DUI is classified as a misdemeanor if the current offense is the first, second, or third offense within the past five years. DUI is a felony crime if the current offense is the fourth or subsequent DUI offense within the past five years. Alabama’s "look-back" period for DUI offenses is five years, as measured from the date of each conviction. This includes all DUI convictions, whether occurring in this state or any other state or territory. A driver with a prior DUI conviction who was convicted of DUI more than five years since the second arrest must be treated by the court as a first offender. However, if the second DUI offense occurs within five years of the first conviction, it will be prosecuted as a second offense.
A first DUI arrest is prosecuted as a misdemeanor. If convicted, the driver faces the possibility of incarceration in the county or municipal jail. Imposition of an active jail sentence for first DUI conviction is within the discretion of the court. By statute, a fine of not less than $600 nor more than $2,100, plus court costs, will be imposed by the court. The defendant will also be ordered to attend a court approved substance abuse program. After evaluation by the Court Referral Officer (CRO), the convicted motorist will be enrolled in either the Level I or the Level II substance abuse program. Failure to complete the CRO program as required will result in a delinquency report and the likelihood of an active jail sentence imposed for failing to obey the court’s orders. The motorist’s driver license will also be suspended for 90 days by the Department of Public Safety. There is no opportunity to obtain a “temporary” or “work permit” driver license. Such “temporary” or “hardship” driver license privileges do not exist under Alabama law and no court has the authority to issue such a permit.
A second DUI arrest within five years of the first conviction will also be prosecuted as a misdemeanor offense. If convicted, an active jail term of not less than five days is required by statute, and the sentencing court has the authority to impose a term of up to 365 days in jail. The court may allow a defendant to perform 30 days of community service in lieu of the required five days imprisonment. The driver will be fined not less than $1,100 and up to $5,100, plus court costs, and the driver license will be revoked for one year. The driver will not be eligible to obtain a driver license until one year has elapsed from the date of the revocation, posts SR-22 insurance coverage with the Department of Public Safety for a period of three (3) years, and successfully completes the driver examination. In addition, the driver will be required to complete the Level II or Level III treatment program.
A third DUI arrest within the past five years is also a misdemeanor punishable by not less than 60 days actual incarceration and up to 1 year in jail. The 60 day active sentence is mandatory by state law and cannot be suspended. In many instances, the court will order one year (365 days) of incarceration, impose 60 days of active sentence, and place the remaining 305 days on probation. The court has the authority to impose a term of probation for up to two years. If the motorist violates the terms of probation during the probationary period, the court is authorized to revoke probation and require the remaining days to be served. Upon conviction of third offense DUI, the driver also faces a fine of not less than $2,100 and up to $10,100, plus court costs, and must complete the Level III substance abuse treatment program. In addition, the Department of Public Safety will revoke the driver license of the motorist for a period of three years1 .
The fourth DUI arrest within five years of three previous DUI convictions, whether occurring in this state or elsewhere, will be prosecuted as a Class C felony. A person convicted of felony DUI will be sentenced to not less than one year and one day and not more than 10 years imprisonment. If the sentence ordered is three years or less, the court has the discretion to order the sentence served in a local jail. If the sentence imposed is more than three years, the convicted person will be sent to the state penitentiary to serve the sentence. The driver also faces a fine of $4,100 and $10,100 and a five-year driver license revocation. The accused will also be required to attend a court approved substance abuse program.
1 If the driver license is currently under suspension or revocation order, the three year revocation period (five years in the case of a “fourth offense “ DUI) will be added to the existing period of suspension or revocation. By a recent ruling of the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals, driver license suspension or revocation periods are to be served consecutively, and not to be run concurrently when the licensee is facing multiple license removal actions.