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You Don't Have to Be Moving to Get a DUI in Alabama

The law and consequences if you’re under the influence

If you drink, drive and get caught in the state of Alabama, there can be dire consequences. But you may not be aware of what those consequences are, or the various ways in which you could be caught. Here is a primer.

What the Law Says

The statute in Alabama prohibits anyone from driving or being in physical control of a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 percent or more, or while under the influence of drugs, alcohol or any impairing substance—or combination thereof—to a degree that renders the person incapable of safely driving a vehicle. This is fairly standard language for a DUI statute, but what makes Alabama’s unique is the words “actual physical control.”

Because of that phrase, an Alabama motorist can get a DUI without a vehicle being in motion. “Actual control” is defined in the law as the exclusive physical power and present ability to operate, move, park or direct whatever use or non-use is to be made of the motor vehicle at the moment. In plain English, this means that a jury will look to certain factors to determine if a motorist could set the car in motion.

These factors are location-based—where the intoxicated motorist is in relation to their car, where their car is located, where the keys to the car are—but also consider if the car running and if the motorist is awake or asleep. If a driver is drunk with the keys in the ignition and the motor running in the middle of a road, they’ll likely be found guilty. If one is sleeping in their car, parked in their driveway and the keys are elsewhere, there is less of a chance of getting a DUI.

The BAC threshold is reduced to .04 percent if the licensee is driving a commercial vehicle. It’s unlawful for drivers who are under 21 years old to operate a vehicle with a BAC of .02 percent or more. There are many substances that impair human function without registering on the alcoholic spectrum, and many could garner a motorist a DUI without being, “over the legal limit.”

The Consequences

Just as there are many paths to receiving a DUI, the penalties and ramifications for deciding to move a motor vehicle while impaired are many in the state of Alabama. For a first offense, the maximum penalty is one year in jail. If a driver has a BAC of .15 percent or higher, the sentence of one year is mandatory. A judge can decide if it’s appropriate to sentence a convicted driver to probation for a year instead of jail.

There are mandatory license suspensions of 90 days for a first-time offense. This mandatory suspension can be stayed if the driver agrees to have an interlock device placed in their car for six months at their own expense. The fines that can be given are $600 to $2,100, plus court costs and fees. The fees and penalties increase with each subsequent offense.

Every driver convicted of a DUI is mandated to attend a substance abuse evaluation and must comply with the recommendations of the court. There is no getting around this requirement. Attorneys suggest attending any and all treatments sooner than required by the court and even voluntarily attending treatments above and beyond what is mandated.  

If you are on the unfortunate side of the law, be certain to hire an experienced and reputable attorney to argue on your behalf. If you'd like more general information about this area of the law, see our DUI/DWI law overview.

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