The 2011 regular legislative session saw passage of two significant DUI bills. The first, SB 67, deals with the penalties for a DUI offender with a BAC of 0.15 or higher. The second, HB 361, is the ignition interlock bill. Both laws go into effect September 1, 2011. This is only a brief synopsis of the bills. Each bill can be viewed in its entirety by clicking on the bill number below. While only the primary sponsor is listed with the bill number, both bills had a number of co-sponsors and many other legislators were vital in their passage.
SB 67 (Sen. Glover):
This is the “Super-Drunk” DUI bill.
This law goes into effect September 1, 2011.
41 other states and the District of Columbia currently have an aggravated DUI law.
This bill provides that UPON CONVICTION for DUI, any offender with a blood-alcohol content of 0.15 or greater will be sentenced to double what he or she would have received had his or her BAC been less than 0.15. This same sentence enhancement is currently used when someone is convicted of DUI while a child under the age of 14 is present in the vehicle at the time of the offense (subsection (n) of the current DUI statute).
This bill also provides that the offender’s license shall be suspended for “at least one year”. This only comes into play for a first offense. Currently, a first offense only mandates a 90 day DL suspension; however, should the offenders BAC be 0.15 or greater, the DL suspension shall be for one year.
The effect on a first offender will be that the DL suspension will be for one year instead of the current 90 days and the minimum fine goes from $600 to $1200. For a second offense, the minimum mandatory jail time goes from five days to 10 days and the minimum fine goes from $1100 to $2200. For a third offense, the minimum mandatory jail time goes from 60 days to 120 days and the minimum fine goes from $2100 to $4200. For a fourth or subsequent offense, the minimum jail time goes from 10 days to 20 days and the minimum fine goes from $4100 to $8200.
HB 361 (Rep. Hill):
This is the Ignition Interlock Bill.
This law goes in to effect September 1, 2011, however, as stated in section 3 of the bill, the substantive provisions do not go into effect until September 1, 2012. This will allow time for DFS to promulgate the rules for the devices, the interlock providers to submit devices for approval, DPS to develop the new interlock driver’s license and other infrastructure necessary to implement this program.
Alabama became the 50th state to pass an ignition interlock law.
An ignition interlock is a device installed on the car of the DUI offender’s choosing that the offender is required to blow into prior to cranking his or her vehicle. If the person has a BAC of 0.02 or higher, the vehicle will not start. The device will also require a “rolling restart” which means that it must be blown into every few minutes to keep the vehicle cranked. This keeps the offender from driving to a bar, leaving the car running while he drinks and allowing him to enter a cranked vehicle to drive home. The portion of the device to be blown into is a long tube, so blowing into it will require no more effort than using a straw.
This bill also creates a crime for anyone who blows into the device in an attempt to provide a person required to have an interlock with an operable vehicle.
How this will work: When someone is convicted of DUI, his or her driver’s license will be suspended as it is under current law. When the offender applies for DL reinstatement, they will get a special DL that indicates they can only operate a vehicle equipped with an interlock device. The offender will have to show proof of installation of an interlock device prior to getting their DL reinstated.
The device is leased from and interlock provider and costs the offender approximately $2-$3 per day and the offender must have their device serviced every 30 days.
If the offender is found to have incurred any violations with the interlock, the provider will report those violations to the court and the time the offender is required to have the interlock is extended six months. Such violations include blowing into the device with a BAC at or above .02 four or more times in a 30 day period, attempts to tamper with or circumvent the device and failure to get service within a 30 day period.
The ignition interlock is NOT mandatory for a first offender UNLESS the offender had a BAC of 0.15 or higher, refused to submit to a chemical test, had a child in the vehicle under the age of 14 or if someone other than the defendant was injured at the time of the offense. The offender will then be required to have an interlock installed on their vehicle for two years. For a second offense, the offender will be required to have an interlock device for two years after the one-year DL revocation is served. For a third offense, after the defendant has served a three-year DL revocation, the offender will be required to have an interlock installed for three years. For a fourth or subsequent offense, the offender will be required to have an interlock device for five years following the five-year DL revocation.
An offender found operating a vehicle that is not equipped with an ignition interlock device shall be removed from the vehicle and taken into custody. The vehicle will also be impounded.
An offender granted indigency status will be required to pay one-half of all fees associated with the installation and maintenance of the interlock device. One of the loopholes found in the interlock laws of other states is an offender who claims to not own a vehicle and, therefore, escapes the interlock requirement. For that reason, this bill states that a defendant who claims to not own a vehicle must still pay $75 per month, which goes into the Alabama Impaired Driving Prevention and Enforcement Fund. Those funds will be used by DPS for DUI education and enforcement. This does not absolve the offender from being able to only operate vehicles equipped with an interlock devices.
These laws represent new sentencing standards for DUI cases and are the most significant changes to the DUI law since 2006.
Feel free to contact me with any questions.