According to the travel industry, more than 1.5 million students and families choose to take a break each spring and go on vacation. Spring break is an American tradition, and Alabama is a common destination with our gorgeous white sand beaches and plenty of activities to keep you entertained.
One of those activities, particularly for college students, is partying. Unfortunately, it’s all too common that someone eventually ends up behind the wheel after having too much to drink. The result could be a driving under the influence (DUI) charge. If you’re arrested for DUI in Alabama on spring break, what should you do?
DUI Charge in Alabama
There is nothing like that peculiar sinking feeling that sets in when you realize you’ve made a life-altering mistake. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 1.5 million Americans experience that feeling each year when they are charged with DUI.
The penalties are high for DUI, and in Alabama, the charges are severe. In 2018 there were some changes to standard DUI rules, which added two new charges to the menu of possible penalties. One allows the court to look back 10-years at your history to determine if you’ve been charged with other crimes, including DUI, in the past. The new rule replaced a look-back law that only went back five years.
The significance is simple; if you’ve had a prior arrest for DUI within the past five years, that makes the current arrest a second conviction, and the penalties are even worse.
The second change in the laws that occurred in 2018 requires an ignition interlock system. If you’re in pretrial diversion, which could allow alternative sentencing other than jail time, the courts may require a breath alcohol ignition tool installed in your car. These devices, which are very expensive to install, require the driver to breathe into a mouthpiece before the car will start. You could be required to have this device in your car for up to two years.
These new rules are in addition to the regular penalties for DUI in Alabama, and as mentioned previously, they are severe.
Charged with Alabama DUI, Now What?
If you’ve been charged with DUI while on spring break in Alabama, a lot is riding on your seeking legal help immediately. The penalties for even a first-time DUI are onerous. In addition to the legal penalties, having a driving while drunk on your record could impair your ability to get a job or an apartment, or even get into college. At the very least, your auto insurance will skyrocket, assuming you can get coverage.
In Alabama, if you’re convicted of DUI while on spring break or at any other time, the penalties include a suspension of your license for 90-days, fines of up to $2,100, and up to a year in jail. This is for your first DUI conviction, and the penalties go up from there.
If your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level is high, the judge could be inclined (or required by law) to seek higher penalties. If you’ve caused an accident or have minors in the vehicle, the penalties could also be higher. We should also note, if you’re under 21, any alcohol in your system can get you charged with a DUI.
What to Do If Charged with DUI on Spring Break
If alcohol is part of your spring break, never get behind the wheel of a car. The risk is just too great. However, if you’ve been stopped and are charged, several things will occur:
- Arraignment, which is the court appearance after the arrest.
- The trial and appeals process could go on for a while, especially if you are found guilty initially and seek to appeal the decision.
The number one thing you want to do if you are pulled over for a DUI while on spring break in Alabama—or, at any time—is to avoid conviction. That’s where the offices of Coumanis & York can help.
What About Minors and DUI in Alabama?
The penalties can increase even more if you’re arrested on a driving under the influence charge, separately, or even in addition to these other charges. Even a first offense on a DUI could have long-lasting implications affecting college, employment, finding a place to live, or even getting affordable car insurance in the future.
A first-time DUI in Alabama can:
- Suspend your license for 90-days
- Charge fines of up to $1,200
- Put you in jail for up to a year
These penalties can exacerbate if your blood alcohol level is extremely high, if you cause an accident, or even if other minors are in the car. If you are a minor, you can be charged a DUI for any amount of alcohol in your system.
Beyond ruining spring break, any of these charges can change your life forever.
If you’re under the age of 21 in Alabama, you are not permitted to consume alcohol. However, if you are 19 to 21 years old, you can work in a professional restaurant that serves alcohol. You just can’t drink it yourself.
A MIP criminal charge can land you in jail. If you’re 18 to 21, you will face charges in adult court. If you’re less than 18, you’ll still be in trouble, but won’t face charges in the adult court or risk of spending time in an adult jail.
If you are 18 to 21 and charged with MIP, it’s serious. You would face jail time and fines. The rules are defined under Alabama Code Title 28. Intoxicating Liquor, Malt Beverages, and Wine § 28-1-5. The law states:
“It shall be unlawful for a person less than 21 years of age to purchase, consume, possess, or to transport any alcohol, liquor or malt or brewed beverages within the State of Alabama.”
If convicted, the statute requires a fine of not less than $25.00 or more than $100.00. While that may not sound like a big deal, the law goes on to stipulate that you can also be imprisoned in the county jail for “not more than 30 days.” However, the courts can impose both the fine and jail time. But that’s not the only charge that the police have at their disposal.
Preventing a DUI Conviction in Alabama
The first step toward preventing a DUI conviction in Alabama is simply to never be charged with the offense in the first place. To prevent a DUI charge during spring break:
- If alcohol is involved in your spring break, make sure you never get behind the wheel of a car. This advice is obvious, but easy to ignore in the heat of the moment.
- Understand the laws where you’re vacationing.
- Plan your party in advance. Always set a designated driver or call Uber.
If you’ve been stopped for DUI, the best thing you can do is immediately call our firm at 251-990-3083 (Daphne) or 251.431-7272 (Mobile). Coumanis & York offer experienced representation to help you navigate the Alabama court systems. We will vigorously defend your rights and stand beside you during all parts of the legal process.