Understanding DUI Laws in Alabama

You don't have to be moving to get a DUI in Alabama

By Benjy Schirm, J.D. | Reviewed by Canaan Suitt, J.D. | Last updated on September 14, 2023

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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 the consequences of drunk driving are in Alabama, or the various ways in which you could be caught. Here is a primer.

DUI Offenses in Alabama

Alabama’s DUI law prohibits anyone from driving or being in physical control of a vehicle if:

  • They have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 percent or more;
  • They are under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or any other impairing substance to an extent that renders them incapable of safely driving a vehicle.

Note that the BAC threshold is reduced to .04 percent if the licensee is driving a commercial vehicle. For drivers under the legal drinking age of 21 years old, the legal limit is .02 percent.

A Catch in the Alabama DUI Statute

You might think that someone can only get a DUI if they’re driving. However, a person can be in a position to operate or control a vehicle without actively driving it. Because of the phrase “actual physical control” in the DUI law, an Alabama motorist can get a DUI without the vehicle being in motion.

An Alabama jury will look at various factors to determine if a motorist could set the car in motion while intoxicated:

  • Where the intoxicated motorist is in relation to their car;
  • Where their car is located;
  • Where the keys to the car are;
  • Whether the car was running; and
  • Whether the motorist is awake or asleep.

So, if an intoxicated person is parked in the middle of the road and has their keys in the ignition with the vehicle’s motor running, they would likely be found guilty.

By contrast, if they are sleeping in their car’s backseat or parked in their driveway and the keys are located elsewhere (such as inside their house), there is less of a chance of getting a DUI charge.

DUI Enforcement in Alabama

By driving in the state of Alabama, you have given your implied consent to field sobriety tests and BAC testing if a law enforcement officer stops you and has a reasonable suspicion that you’re intoxicated.

Signs of intoxication that can give a police officer reasonable suspicion include:

  • Unsafe or erratic driving;
  • A heavy smell of alcohol;
  • Slurred speech;
  • Poor coordination; or
  • Open containers of alcohol in your car.

Common BAC tests include breath tests, blood tests, and urine tests. While you can refuse to take a test, doing so will bring penalties, including driver’s license suspension. The fact that you refused a test can also be admitted as evidence in court.

The Consequences of an Alabama DUI Conviction

Just as there are many ways to get an Alabama DUI, there are many potential penalties as well:

Jail Time

For a first-time DUI offense, the maximum penalty is one year in jail. If a driver has a BAC of .15 percent or higher, the one-year sentence is mandatory. A judge can decide if it’s appropriate to sentence a convicted driver to probation for a year instead of jail.

Driver’s License Suspension

There is also a mandatory license suspension of 90 days for a first-time offense. This mandatory suspension can be stayed if the driver agrees to have an ignition interlock device (IID) 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 DUI penalties increase with each subsequent offense.

Substance Abuse Evaluation

Drivers convicted of a DUI are mandated to attend 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.  

A DUI conviction will remain on your criminal record indefinitely. It can affect all aspects of your life, including your current employment and ability to get a job in the future.

Finding an Alabama DUI Lawyer

If you are on the unfortunate side of Alabama law, be certain to contact a law firm and speak with an experienced Alabama DUI defense attorney for legal advice. An Alabama DUI attorney’s role is to advocate for their client in court and help mitigate the negative consequences of a DUI as much as possible.

If you’d like additional information about the consequences of driving under the influence, see our DUI/DWI law overview.

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