One thing that commonly happens when a person gets arrested for DUI for the first time is they do not realize the seriousness of the situation. This is usually a result of being given the wrong advice. Whether it is from another person arrested at the county detention center, the arresting officer, a local magistrate or someone else, defendants are often told if they simply accept responsibility, they could get avoid any additional jail time and put the matter behind them.
The problem with this approach is even if you get out of jail quickly with a plea bargain, you will have a permanent criminal record. Plus, if you get arrested a second time, you may be in serious trouble and facing significant jail time. That’s because a second or subsequent offense is treated a much more seriously than first-time offenses, as our Birmingham DUI defense attorneys can explain.
Still, according to a recent new article from WHNT, many people are concerned that laws pertaining to punishment for repeat offenders in the state of Alabama aren’t harsh enough.
The story features the ordeal of a 2013 defendant who was allegedly got behind the wheel of a vehicle drunk and was involved in a car accident where one person was killed. She had a previously-revoked license and multiple prior DUI charges on her record in more than one Alabama county.
Prosecutors in Madison County believe the problem relates to an ineffective felony DUI statute. While this prosecutor states we technically have a felony DUI statute, in order to charge someone under the statute, it must be the fourth or subsequent conviction on a person’s record. This prosecutor says that is almost impossible to establish in an ordinary DUI case involving repeat offenders, so the felony enhancement is rarely ever used.
On a fourth or subsequent DUI conviction, the offense can be a Class C felony, publishable under Alabama law by no less than one year in prison and not more than ten years, plus a fine of between $4,100 and $5,100. This fourth conviction must also be within a five-year period.
This prosecutor says that, in order for a defendant to have enough convictions on his on his or record within a five-year period to qualify for a felony DUI offense, the offender would have to basically make drinking and driving a “part-time job.”
While there is no question there are repeat offenders and people who drive drunk on a regular basis and rarely or never get arrested, it is not as if the government has its hands tied while people take advantage of a weak penalty scheme. In reality, the government has many strategic advantages, including:
- Ample resources to prosecute offenders
- Officers who are more interested in making an arrest than performing a competent investigation
- Courts that stack the decks against defendants
For this reason, the best thing you can do if you are arrested for drunk driving in Birmingham is to speak with an attorney who is willing to fight for your best interests in court and during negotiations with prosecutors.