Drunk Driving Laws in Alabama
Alabama imposes strict laws and penalties to discourage drunk driving and save lives, but intoxicated drivers continue to put others at risk. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly 30 people are killed in drunk driving accidents every day.
In Alabama, people who are hurt or killed in accidents with impaired drivers may be entitled to compensation for their injuries and other losses. An experienced drunk driving accident lawyer can help push for a full and fair settlement if you’ve been hurt.
If you or a loved one was struck by an impaired driver in Phenix City, you need a dedicated DUI injury lawyer who is committed to getting maximum results for you. Look no further than Bence Law Firm. Attorney David Bence has dedicated his career to helping injured Alabamans recover the money they need after suffering harm at the hands of a drunk driver.
Call or contact us today for a free consultation.
When Are You Considered Legally Drunk in Alabama?
Alcohol affects the central nervous system in ways that impair thinking, judgment, and coordination. When a person drinks, the alcohol is absorbed directly into their bloodstream from the walls of their stomach and intestines. For this reason, blood alcohol concentration (BAC) tests are used to measure the amount of alcohol in a person’s blood if they seem too intoxicated to drive.
All 50 states, including Alabama, have legal limits on the amount of alcohol that’s considered “safe” for motor vehicle operators to consume before driving. These limits are based on a person’s BAC and are different for various types of drivers. Drivers are considered legally drunk in Alabama when:
- They are 21 years old or older with a BAC level of 0.08.
- They are under 21 years of age with a BAC level of 0.02.
- They are a commercial driver with a BAC level of 0.04.
- They are a school bus or daycare driver with a BAC level of 0.02.
What is Actual Physical Control?
By the time a drunk driver causes an accident, it’s already too late. That’s why Alabama law states that drivers can be charged with driving under the influence (DUI) even if they are not actually driving their vehicle and the car is not actively moving.
In Alabama, all that’s required for a driver to be held responsible for DUI is for them to be in “actual physical control” of their vehicle. Actual physical control is exactly what it sounds like. A driver is considered to be in actual physical control of their vehicle when they are physically inside or in contact with the vehicle and have the ability to control the operation of the vehicle in some way.
This can include drivers who have the present ability to move, park, or direct the use of their vehicle. In some cases, even drivers who were asleep in their driver’s seats with keys in the ignition have been found to have actual physical control and met with subsequent DUI charges.
Enhanced Penalties and Drivers Under 21
The penalties for a DUI in Alabama can vary based on the circumstances surrounding the incident. For example, drivers aged 21 or older and convicted of a DUI while a child under the age of 14 was inside their vehicle may be subject to double the minimum penalties they would have received otherwise.
Drivers convicted of DUIs may also be subject to enhanced penalties if their BAC level is exceptionally high. A person found guilty of driving with a BAC of 0.15 is typically sentenced to at least double the usual minimum penalties.
In most cases, the penalties for drunk driving become more severe when offenders have one or more prior convictions on their record within the past 10 years. Typical penalties for first, second, and third-time offenses include:
- First-time offense: Up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $2,100, and a 90-day license suspension.
- Second offense: A minimum of five days and up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $5,100, and a one-year license suspension.
- Third offense: A minimum of 60 days and up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $10,100, and a 3-year license revocation.
Drivers under the age of 21 who are convicted of DUI are not subject to these penalties. However, they can have their licenses suspended for up to 30 days and may be required to complete substance abuse treatment courses.
Alabama BAC Limits and Per Se DUIs
DUI charges are based on BAC levels, but alcohol does not affect everyone in the same way. Differences in gender, body type, and genetics can impact the level of impairment people feel after they consume alcohol.
“Per se” DUI rules in Alabama state that drivers can be convicted of DUI even if they do not appear to be significantly impaired by a BAC level above the legal limit. This means that even if a driver “feels fine” after consuming enough alcohol to raise his or her BAC level over 0.08, they can be charged with DUI based solely on the amount of alcohol in their bloodstream.
What Happens If You Refuse a Blood or Breath Test?
Alabama has “implied consent” laws that require all drivers to submit to blood, urine, or breathalyzer tests if they are lawfully detained for a DUI. If you refuse to submit to an officer’s lawful request for a breath, blood, or urine test, your license will be suspended for a period of 90 days, effective immediately.
If you have refused any other lawful BAC tests within the past five years, your license will immediately be suspended for one year. It’s important to note that license suspensions for BAC test refusals are separate from other criminal charges you could face for a DUI. Even if your underlying DUI charges are dismissed, your license will remain suspended for the entire 90-day or one-year period.
BAC Limits for Commercial Drivers
We trust commercial drivers to transport people, goods, and equipment throughout our nation, so they have a unique responsibility on the road. Drivers of large buses and commercial trucks can cause devastating accidents if they are not in control of their vehicles. This is why BAC thresholds are reduced for commercial drivers, who can be convicted of DUI if their BAC level is 0.04, half the legal limit for other motorists.
Injured by a Drunk Driver? Contact Bence Law Firm
If you were injured in an Alabama drunk driving accident, call or contact Bence Law Firm as soon as possible. We can discuss the details of your case in a free consultation and help restore your sense of financial security and personal wellbeing again.