Your Birmingham DUI Case: The Basics

You don't even realize how cold it is outside on The J Clyde's beer garden, but that may be the gourmet beer keeping you warm. What, were you supposed to drink water with those sweet potato fries? No way, but tomorrow is a weekday and you need to drive home, you'll be fine. You decide to stay off the freeway to be careful, but while heading out of town south on 18th Street red lights flash in your rear view mirror. The jig is up, but you have no idea what comes next. FindLaw has created this general guide with information about a typical Birmingham DUI case.

The Stop

Birmingham police officer typically begins a stop by observing you for signs of intoxication, including bloodshot eyes and smelly beer breath. If the officer suspects you've been drinking, he or she will likely ask you to step out of your vehicle and perform Field Sobriety Tests, which are simple exercises designed to test your coordination and memory.

If you perform poorly, the officer will likely ask you to submit to a chemical test, and if it reads your blood alcohol content, or "BAC," above the legal limit, you will be arrested on the spot.

Driving Under the Influence

Alabama defines driving under the influence as driving a vehicle with a BAC level of 0.08% or more, for most adults. The state places a 0.04% limit on commercial drivers, and a 0.02% limit on minors and individuals who operate a school bus or day care van.

The penalties for DUI start off reasonable and quickly scale up depending on how many prior DUI convictions you've suffered. There is no mandatory minimum jail time for a first timer, but you'll likely be fined between $600 and $1,200. If you're convicted of a second DUI within the Alabama "lookback period" of five years, you will face at least five days in jail. Expect a 60-day sentence for a third DUI, and your fourth or more conviction becomes a felony with at least one year in prison. Judges also have the discretion to order the installation and maintenance of an ignition interlock device and court-ordered substance abuse treatment when they feel it is necessary.

Implied Consent

Alabama's "implied consent" law says that just by driving on public road, you consent to taking a chemical test of your blood, breath, or urine after you are lawfully for DUI. The officer will likely request one specific test, though you can request a different one. If you refuse to take the test, your license will automatically be suspended for 90 days, even if you're later acquitted of DUI. If you've refused a chemical test within the past five years, your license will be suspended for one year.

It is legal to refuse to take a breath test, but it may not help much, because a prosecutor may use your refusal as evidence that you knew you'd fail, and it's possible to end up with a DUI suspension period tacked onto the refusal suspension.

License Suspension Hearing

When you receive a notice that your license has been suspended, you can request an administrative hearing with the Department of Public Safety to appeal your suspension. If your request is received within ten days of the mailing date of your suspension notice, your license suspension will not begin until after the hearing. You may still request a hearing after the initial 10 days, but the suspension will not be delayed. Note that if you've already been convicted of DUI, you will not be granted an administrative hearing. You may also submit a request online or by mail (make sure you include your full name, date of birth and driver's license number):

Driver License Division
P.O. Box 1471
Montgomery, AL 36102-1471

How to Reinstate Your License

After your suspension period has terminated, you may request reinstatement of your suspended driver's license. You can complete and submit a Request for Reinstatement Requirements to the address listed above in order to find out the proper steps you need to take to reinstate your license.

You will receive the form back with instructions how to successfully reinstate your suspended driver's license. A complete list of reinstatement steps will be on the form, but you only need to follow the steps that have been marked, indicating that they apply to you.

Now that you know what to expect in general from a Birmingham DUI case, if you have specific questions about a particular case, you may wish to contact a local DUI attorney.

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