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Frequently Asked Questions About DUI Law in Alabama

Can I be stopped and arrested for DUI in Alabama even if the vehicle was not moving?

Some states require that the person actually be driving a moving vehicle to be arrested for a DUI charge, while other states allow the conviction simply for being behind the wheel or having the keys in the ignition.  In Alabama, a person can be found guilty of driving under the influence even if the vehicle is not moving when they are confronted by a police officer.  For example, in one recent case the defendant was found sleeping in his parked car on the wrong side of the road.  The man was arrested after a field sobriety test showed he was clearly intoxicated; the results were later confirmed by a blood test.  The court in that case convicted the defendant of driving under the influence of alcohol despite the vehicle not being in motion when he was apprehended, saying that at any time he could have woken up and continued to drive the vehicle.  Thus the prosecution was successful in establishing that the defendant was in physical control of the vehicle despite being asleep.  All the prosecution had to show was that the defendant could potentially have operated the vehicle and caused it to move while in a state of inebriation.  Thus, in Alabama a person can be convicted of driving under the influence even if they are not technically driving the vehicle (the vehicle is not in motion) at the time of the arrest.

Do I have the right to talk to an attorney before I give a sample?

Some states give defendants the right to speak with an attorney before submitting to a chemical test such as by blood or urine.  In other states, no such privilege exists and the defendant has not right to speak with his attorney until after submitting to such a test.  Regardless of when the state you are in allows you to speak with an attorney, it is a good idea to secure counsel for the purposes of your defense.  In all states including Alabama, a defendant has a constitutional right to defense counsel (in other words, the advice of a lawyer) both before as well as during any police interrogation.

In Alabama, a driver is afforded the opportunity to speak with an attorney before submitting to a chemical test.  However, the arresting officer is not required to and lacks incentive to disclose this information to the driver of a vehicle.  While this may not seem entirely honest, the officer must oblige once a driver requests to speak with his attorney.

Do I have the right to refuse a blood or urine sample?

If a driver refuses to submit to a chemical test by a police officer, he will be guilty of Alabama’s implied consent law and will be arrested for driving under the influence.  However, any driver in Alabama who is requested to take a chemical test can by law submit his or her own test as evidence.  A doctor, nurse, or other medical professional must administer this test to ensure its accuracy.  Thus drivers in Alabama have the right to challenge the chemical tests they are forced to take by police by taking independent tests.  In addition, the defendant and his attorney have the right to access the results of any chemical test done by the police upon arrest.

Do I have to submit a field sobriety test?

Field sobriety tests allow police to determine potential inebriation before forcing drivers to submit to chemical testing of their blood or urine.  Alabama law does not require submitting to a field sobriety test, so the driver can deny an officer’s request when prompted to take such a test.  However, such refusal will result in the officer asking the driver to take a chemical test (a breathalyzer, for example).  This request is not optional, as declining a chemical test means the driver is automatically in violation of the state implied consent law and thus guilty of DUI.  Thus while drivers in Alabama can deny requests by police to submit to a field sobriety test, failure to comply with a chemical test can result in the same penalties as having a BAC above the legal limit.

Can a DUI charge result in vehicle confiscation in Alabama?

Some states allow police to confiscate the driver’s vehicle upon arrest or charge for driving under the influence either permanently or for a set period of time.  This is a harsh penalty typically reserved for repeat DUI offenders, with the notion being that those most likely to commit DUI offenses (i.e., repeat offenders) will be deterred from doing so if their vehicles are confiscated.  Many states defend this concept with a public policy rationale, in other words, it is in the public’s best interest to keep such reckless drivers off the road, and confiscating their vehicles is a huge deterrent to this crime.  Alabama law does not currently allow the police to confiscate a driver’s vehicle in this manner.  However, even states that allow such procedures have appeal processes to allow defendants to recover their vehicles where appropriate.

Can a DUI charge result in mandatory alcohol education or treatment programs?

Some states do force DUI offenders to attend alcohol education or treatment programs as part of the penalty for driving under the influence of alcohol.  These programs typically involve educating the individual as well as assessing his dependency on alcohol or other drugs.  These programs are sometimes used as part of a suspension or probation program.  Thus in states that have such treatment programs, a DUI convict can avoid a potential jail sentence as well as fines by completing the program.  Alabama currently has a mandatory alcohol treatment program in place, even for first time offenders.  Thus drivers convicted of DUI offenses in Alabama will be exposed to such programs automatically.  This may aid an offender, since successful completion of a program in states that endorse them can lead to significantly fewer penalties for the conviction as well as a healthier future overall with a better education on the effects of alcohol.

What are Boating under the influence (“BUI”) Laws?

All 50 states have laws against boating under the influence of drugs and alcohol.  In Alabama, the legal BAC limit for driving a boat is 0.08, the same level as for driving an automobile. In addition, Alabama has a lower BAC threshold for minor boaters than for boaters who have attained the age of 21.  This lower threshold is 0.00.  Thus the penalty for boating under the influence may differ based on the age of the person convicted, and a minor may be convicted of boating under the influence even if they have a BAC between 0.00 and 0.02.  This is similar to the state’s laws for DUI, which carry enhanced penalties (or at least a lower BAC threshold) when dealing with minors driving under the influence.

What are the Open Container Laws in Alabama?

In general, open container laws prohibit possession of open alcoholic beverage containers in a vehicle, and prohibit drinking in a vehicle even by passengers not operating the car.  In Alabama, open container law is operative if the seal of the container is broken.  The resulting penalty is a class C misdemeanor and results in a small fine typically of $25 for the driver of the vehicle.

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