Alabama’s DUI Laws and Conviction Penalties

The consequences of a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd DUI offense in Alabama.

Alabama, like all states, prohibits driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. But what does it mean to be "under the influence" and what are the consequences of a DUI conviction?

Alabama's DUI laws define the offense and outline the possible penalties for DUI convictions. This article explains in simple terms what constitutes driving under the influence, summarizes the penalties for a first, second, and third DUI conviction, and includes information about possible options for reducing penalties and avoiding a DUI conviction.

Alabama's DUI Laws

In order to prove a DUI charge in court, prosecutors generally must show the defendant was:

  • driving or in actual physical control of a motor vehicle, and
  • under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

However, these two "elements" require a bit more explanation.

How Alabama's DUI Laws Define "Driving" or Being in "Actual Physical Control" of a Vehicle

Alabama's DUI law specifically says "a person shall not drive or be in actual physical control of any vehicle" while under the influence.

So, if you're caught actually driving a vehicle while under the influence, you can, of course, be convicted of a DUI. But, believe it or not, you can be convicted of driving under the influence even without ever putting your vehicle in motion.

Under Alabama law, a person is in "actual physical control" of a vehicle if he or she has exclusive and present ability to use or move the vehicle. Based on this definition, an impaired person who's just sitting in the driver's seat in a parked car could possibly face DUI prosecution.

How Alabama's DUI Laws Define "Under the Influence"

Under Alabama's DUI laws, a person is considered to be under the influence:

  • if impaired by any substance to a degree that renders him or her incapable of safely driving, or
  • if he or she had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more.

In other words, the prosecution can prove the driver is under the influence by showing actual impairment or an excessive BAC.

Penalties for a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd DUI Conviction in Alabama

The range of penalties for drivers convicted of DUI are set by statute and vary based primarily on how many prior DUI convictions the driver has. Within these ranges, the court often has the discretion to impose harsher or more lenient penalties depending on the circumstances, including mitigating and aggravating factors.

How Long a DUI Stays on Your Record in Alabama

In Alabama, DUI convictions stay on your record and count as prior convictions for ten years. Convictions that occurred more than ten years ago generally aren't counted.

Jail Time and Fines for Alabama DUI Convictions

All DUI convictions result in fines. Jail time is possible for a first offense, and there are mandatory minimum jail sentences for second and subsequent DUI convictions.

1st Offense

2nd Offense

3rd Offense

Jail

Up to 1 year

5 days to 1 year

60 days to 1 year

Fines

$600 to $2,100

$1,100 to $5,100

$2,100 to $10,100

In some cases, the offender might be able to avoid all or part of a jail sentence by doing community service, completing a period of probation, completing a period of house arrest, or participating in work release.

Aggravating Factors for Alabama DUI Sentencing

Certain aggravating factors can lead to penalty enhancements for a DUI conviction. These factors include:

The penalties (minimum fine, jail time, and license suspension) are doubled for offenses involving any of these aggravating factors.

Alabama's Substance Abuse Treatment Requirement for DUI Offenders

Offenders are also required to complete a state-approved DUI or substance abuse referral program. The program must be completed prior to license reinstatement.

Alabama's Felony DUI Penalties

In Alabama, a fourth DUI conviction is a felony. Any subsequent DUI—regardless of the elapsed time—will also be considered a felony.

For a felony DUI conviction, the offender is generally looking at $4,100 to $10,100 in fines, one to ten years in jail, and a five-year license revocation followed by four years with an ignition interlock device.

License-Related Penalties for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd DUI Offense in Alabama

A DUI arrest will often lead to license-related penalties. These penalties vary based on the driver's cooperation and level of impairment, as well as the number of prior alcohol and drug-related enforcement contacts. For license penalties, a chemical test failure, unlawful refusal, DUI conviction, or other impairment-related suspensions within the last ten years will count as a prior offense.

License-related penalties can result from a DUI arrest and/or conviction.

Alabama's Implied Consent Law

During a DUI investigation, the officer will generally request the driver to submit to a breath, blood, or urine. Drivers who refuse to complete the test or fail a test with a BAC of .08% or more will face license suspension.

Duration for alcohol and drug-related enforcement contacts

The license suspension duration is the same for an excessive BAC, for a test refusal, and for a DUI conviction and are as follows:

  • 90 days for a first offense
  • One year for a second offense
  • Three years for a third offense, and
  • Five years for a fourth or subsequent offense.

However, these suspensions do not run consecutively (they don't stack) if a driver receives more than one for a case. For example, a driver with no priors who failed testing and was convicted will only receive 90 days of suspension.

These durations are doubled for any driver with a BAC of .15% or more or with a passenger under 14 years old.

Alabama's Ignition Interlock Device (IID) Requirements

Most alcohol and drug-related enforcement contacts result in an ignition interlock requirement following the suspension period. Here are the IID requirements for first, second, and third offenses:

  • First offense. A first offense will not require an IID unless other aggravating factors exist. If the driver refused testing, had a BAC of .15% or more, had a passenger under the age of 14 years old, or caused an injury, an IID must be installed for one year.
  • Second offense. A second offense requires a two-year IID restriction, but the judge is permitted to increase this restriction to up to five years. Refusing the chemical test will add another year to this period.
  • Third offense. A third offense requires a three-year IID restriction and can likewise be increased to five years. Refusing a chemical test will add another year to this period.

As explained below, installing an IID early can cut down the suspension period.

Getting a Restricted License in Alabama After a DUI Revocation

Suspended drivers can apply for restricted driving privileges during a suspension. To obtain restricted privileges, the driver must install an IID, but the time with an IID is credited toward the requirements explained above.

Second-offense drivers must serve 45 days of suspension and third-offense drivers must serve 60 days of suspension prior to applying for a restricted license.

Alabama's Underage DUI Law

Drinking under the age of 21 is illegal and thus so is driving while drinking underage. A driver under the age of 21 that has a BAC of .02% but less than .08% can be convicted of underage drinking and driving (UDD). A UDD violation usually carries:

  • First offense. A first-offense UDD will be required to pay the standard fine of $600 to $2,100 fine and the driver's license will be suspended for 30 days. However, the offender will not be subject to any jail or other penalties and the criminal record will be sealed from the public.
  • Repeat offense. A second offense or subsequent UUD is treated as a standard DUI conviction. So a second-offense UUD will be $1,100 to $5,100 in fines, up to a year in jail, IID, treatment, and all other aforementioned penalties.

An underage driver with a BAC of at least .08% or who is "under the influence" can instead be charged with a standard DUI.

Diversion Agreements for Driver Charged with a DUI in Alabama

Alabama does allow "diversions" for DUI charges. Generally, the offender is required to complete a substance abuse course, install an IID, and abstain from other violations for a specified period of time. In return, the DUI charge can be dismissed outright. Any administrative license suspension penalties may also be avoided or waived. Consult with an attorney to find out if you may be eligible for a diversion or other program.

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