Alabama lawmakers have a pair of bills before them – one in the state House and another in the Senate – that anti-drunk driving advocates are pushing to have passed.
Our Birmingham DUI defense lawyers know that the laws in this state are plenty harsh. But no one will be there to lobby on behalf of the drunk driver.
Consider that according to Alabama Code Section 32-5A-191, a person who is convicted of driving under the influence for the first time will face the following:
- Up to 1 year of imprisonment;
- A fine of up to $2,100, but not less than $600;
- A license suspension for up to three months;
- The possibility of having to install an ignition interlock device.
Additional penalties may be tacked on for first-time offenders who registered an extremely high blood alcohol level (above 0.15 percent), or caused serious injury or property damage or who had a minor under the age of 14 inside the vehicle at the time of arrest.
The two measures currently before state legislators are HB477 and SB401. Both involve the ignition interlock program, and the expansion of it.
Alabama was the last state in the country to require ignition interlock devices for certain DUI offenders. If you aren’t familiar, an ignition interlock is basically a device that is affixed to an offender’s personal vehicle. It is a breathalyzer test that the driver would be required to pass before the engine would start. This option is only applicable to DUI offenders arrested after September 1, 2012.
However, the program has gotten off to a rocky start. There has been very little training offered to state and local police agencies regarding enforcement. And there have also been some strong arguments made for doing away with the program altogether. So judges here in Alabama have been reticent to order defendants to install the devices.
These twin bills would expand the ignition interlock program and streamline certain processes around it. So for example, while a first-time offender still would not be required to have the interlock installed, he or she may be given the option to do so over the course of six months, or have driving privileges totally revoked for three months.
Additionally, the measures would require the courts to notify the state’s public safety department of certain convictions requiring the device. There would also be a fund created so that indigent offenders could still get the device installed.
As of right now, 17 other states have these kind of provisions in place for the interlock devices. Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the advocacy group gunning the hardest for their passage, says that in three of those states where these enhanced interlock programs have passed, DUI deaths are down 35 to 46 percent.
However, MADD was not able to provide any clear-cut evidence that this was specifically due to ignition interlock. In fact, DUI deaths have been on the decline for years – prior to the passage of widespread ignition interlock laws. Over the last 10 years nationwide, drunk driving deaths were down 41 percent, as of 2010 – and that trend has continued.