How Do I Avoid Jail Time for my DUI Charge?

Getting stopped for drunk driving can be a very frightening experience, especially if this is your first time. There is a lot of uncertainty about what to expect next. Will I have to pay a big fine? Will I lose my driving privileges? Will I have to go to jail? These and numerous other questions will be running through your mind.

You might have already spent a couple of days in the county jail, and the last thing you want to do is go back there. The bad news is that even for a first time DUI conviction in Alabama, you are looking at fines of between $600 in $2100, and up to one year in jail. The good news is that most first-time offenders will not have to serve the maximum term, and in many cases, they can avoid jail time altogether.

If this is your second or subsequent drunk driving offense during the past 10 years or there are aggravating circumstances such as a child endangerment charge, a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) that is well above the legal limit, or a DUI accident with serious bodily injuries or fatalities, then it will be more difficult to avoid jail time for your DUI charge.

Multiple DUI offenses carry minimum jail sentences. For example, if you have two DUIs within 10 years, you must serve a minimum of two days up to one year in jail. For three DUI offenses, the minimum jail sentence is 60 days, and for four or more DUIs, the minimum is one year in state prison.

Even with multiple offenses and/or aggravated circumstances, there are still ways to avoid jail time from your DUI charge, depending on the specifics of the case. For example, for a second-time DUI, you may have the option to perform at least 20 days of community service instead of serving jail time. You may also be eligible to participate in a pretrial diversion program that serves as an alternative to going to jail.

DUI Defense Strategies to Avoid a Conviction

Sometimes, you may find yourself in a situation where there is very little chance of avoiding jail time if you are convicted for drunk driving. When this is the case, then your only option may be to fight the charges against you.

Defending your DUI charge might seem like an uphill battle, but it is not necessarily impossible. Simply being charged for drunk driving does not automatically mean you will be convicted, and there are a number of potential defense strategies that could be used to avoid a conviction, or at the very least, negotiate a reduction to a less serious charge.

Here are some DUI defense strategies that your attorney might use:

  • Lack of Probable Cause: In order to be validly charged for DUI, the law enforcement officer must have reasonable suspicion to lawfully stop you and probable cause to arrest you. If it can be established that there was a lack of probable cause, then any evidence obtained after the stop could be subject to suppression at trial.
  • Unreliable Breathalyzer Test: There are numerous potential problems with the preliminary breath test (PBT) that is often administered at the time the driver is stopped and the chemical (breath, blood, or urine) test that is given usually at the police station after the DUI arrest. These may include equipment malfunction, improper handling by the police, and many others. If the reliability of these tests can be called into question, then the case for a DUI conviction would be weaker.
  • Unreliable Field Sobriety Test (FST): The field sobriety tests that are often given during a DUI stop are not necessarily reliable indicators of a motorist’s impairment. For one thing, they are administered by law enforcement officers who already suspect that the motorist is impaired, and they cannot credibly claim to be objective. In addition, the physical condition of the motorist can play a major role in the result of an FST, regardless of whether or not they have alcohol in their system.

These are just a few of the possible defenses that could be used to fight a DUI charge and help avoid jail time. As always, the strategy used in your case will depend on the specific circumstances. In all cases, it is important to work with a skilled DUI defense attorney who has the proven ability to secure favorable outcomes for their clients.

Speak with an Experienced Alabama DUI Defense Lawyer

If you have been charged for DUI in the Mobile, AL area, contact Coumanis & York for legal help. Message us online or call our office right away at 251-990-3083 (Daphne) or 251.431-7272 (Mobile) for a consultation and case assessment. We are ready to defend your legal rights, and we will put our extensive experience to work to minimize the negative consequences as much as possible.

Can a Criminal Record Affect a Personal Injury Case?

Everyone makes mistakes, and many good individuals have been convicted for a criminal offense. It might be a DUI or maybe a minor drug charge, or it could be a drunken disorderly conduct offense from your college days. Everyone deserves a second chance, and as time goes by, you seek to put the past behind you and move on.

Unfortunately, having a criminal history is not always easy to get away from. Prospective employers do not look kindly at someone who has a criminal record, and it can make it more difficult to secure housing, loans, college admission, or the right to carry firearms. Another instance when having a criminal background could become a factor is if you are involved in a personal injury claim.

To be clear, personal injury lawsuits are civil actions that operate independently from the criminal justice system. As such, everyone has the right to pursue monetary damages against a person or party that injured them, regardless of what might be in their criminal history. But while a criminal record should have no direct impact on your personal injury case, the other side may still try to use it against you if they become aware of it.

When Would a Criminal Record Matter in a Personal Injury Case?

In determining whether your criminal history might impact your personal injury claim, one of the first things to look at is the type of offense you were convicted of and if it is relevant to your current case. Typically, a criminal conviction would only be admissible if it helps prove or disprove something of consequence that is related to your claim.

For example, if you have a drunk driving conviction that happened 10 years ago and you are suing a retail store because you slipped and fell on a wet floor and hurt your back, the DUI would not appear to have any relevance with regards to your current claim. If, on the other hand, your offense involved some type of fraud or dishonesty, like passing a bad check, then the other side might try to use it to question your credibility.

What Can I Do About my Criminal Record in a PI Case?

The good news is that there is a good chance your criminal history will not even come up during your personal injury claim. The majority of injury cases never make it to trial in the first place, because it is generally in the best interests of all parties to settle without going through costly and protracted litigation. That said, you should always be prepared to go to trial if necessary, and as such, you should be ready to address your criminal record if it does come up.

With this in mind, the first thing you should do is tell your attorney everything you know about your criminal conviction. Your attorney needs to know all of the relevant facts, so they can deal with any potential negatives well ahead of time and put together the strongest possible case on your behalf.

After you inform your lawyer about your conviction, they could deal with it in a number of ways, depending on the specific circumstances in your case. For example, if you are preparing for trial, they may go over several potential scenarios with you to help ensure that you are fully prepared for what the other side might do. They will advise you to be upfront and honest about your criminal history if it comes up, and in fact, it might even make sense to get out in front of it by bringing it up to the court first and explaining it before the other side has a chance to.

The important thing is to avoid doing anything that might damage your credibility as a witness. Defense attorneys are very good at catching a witness in a lie in order to discredit their testimony, also known as “impeaching the witness”. Answer all of your questions honestly, so the other side is not able to do anything that would cause the jury to doubt your testimony.

Another possible option may be to expunge your criminal record before your personal injury case gets to trial. Expungement would remove your criminal history from the public record, so this might be a good option if your case qualifies.

Alabama only allows certain criminal offenses to be expunged, such as non-convictions for municipal violations, traffic offenses, ordinance violations, misdemeanors, and nonviolent felonies. Speak with your attorney to determine if expungement might be an appropriate strategy for your case.

Contact a Skilled and Knowledgeable Alabama Personal Injury Lawyer

Dealing with a criminal record is just one of numerous complicating factors that may come up when you are pursuing a personal injury claim. And because this is a complex area of the law, it makes sense to be represented by an attorney who has extensive experience with these types of cases.

Coumanis & York provides experienced representation for personal injury clients in the Mobile, AL area. We are also highly skilled at criminal law, and we have an in-depth understanding of how these two areas of the law intertwine. For a consultation with one of our attorneys, message us online or call us at 251-990-3083 (Daphne) or 251.431-7272 (Mobile). We look forward to serving you!

What You Should Know About Public Intoxication in Alabama

Everyone knows that drinking and driving can land you in jail. But what about having a drink or two, hanging out with your friends, and goofing off? 

The answer is that it depends on where you’ve decided to do those activities.

In Alabama, drinking and carousing in public can be construed as public intoxication, a serious offense that can land you in jail just as fast as if you got behind the wheel of a car.

What is Public Intoxication in Alabama?

Under Alabama state law, Code 13A-11-10 states:

“(a) A person commits the crime of public intoxication if he appears in a public place under the influence of alcohol, narcotics, or other drug to the degree that he endangers himself or another person or property, or by boisterous and offensive conduct annoys another person in his vicinity.”

But what does this legalese mean? If you are arrested and charged with public intoxication, the prosecutor must prove several things:

  • That you were in a public place. This could include a park or common area such as parking lot or in a building hallway, or even a car parked in a public area;
  • That you were under the influence of a controlled substance such as alcohol or a drug (or both);
  • That you endangered yourself or another person, or property, whether personal or commercial; and
  • That you annoyed someone else with offensive or boisterous conduct.

The first and second points are relatively easy for prosecutors to prove. However, the final two are more subjective, and therefore, more difficult to establish and prosecute.

If “just horsing around” with your friends leads to a charge of public intoxication, you can face penalties, including fines and jail time. What are the possible penalties that come with a charge of public intoxication in Alabama?

What are the Penalties for an Alabama Public Intoxication Charge?

When the arresting officer snaps cuffs on your wrists, you probably won’t be thinking that you’re lucky to live under Alabama law. You are, though, because state statutes list public intoxication as a violation, not a felony or a misdemeanor. Under current law, a violation is subject to fines up to $200 and 30-days in jail. While 30-days in jail is not easy and $200 not cheap, it’s certainly better than facing a possible felony conviction.

No matter the penalty, you’re in trouble. Having an arrest or a conviction on your record could make it harder to find a job. It could negatively affect the outcome of a civil suit. It might affect your ability to remain in college or attend graduate school. 

An arrest is always a black mark on your permanent record with long-term ramifications that could kill your future opportunities. So, what should you do if you’re arrested for public intoxication in the State of Alabama?

Get Help for Alabama Public Intoxication Arrest

Anytime an arrest occurs, you need a legal team on your side as quickly as possible.
A good lawyer can help you achieve a better outcome when your fun night turns into something that you regret. An experienced attorney can develop a legal strategy that will:

  • Help you understand and navigate the legal process
  • Establish where you were when the incident happened
  • Prove whether your actions really did violate the law
  • Determine whether the arresting officer acted appropriately

An attorney can review the case and provide you with the legal options for resolving it. Your Alabama lawyer will research the facts of the case and present evidence in your defense if you go to trial. 

A good lawyer can improve the chances that the charges of public intoxication can be lessened or perhaps even overturned. A law firm can also help reduce the penalties should you be convicted.

If you’ve been arrested for public intoxication, call the legal team at Coumanis & York. We have more than five decades of experience, and our firm is devoted to the idea that everyone deserves a strong representation in the Alabama court system. 

Public Intoxication Arrest? Call on Coumanis & York

Being charged with a crime is frightening and disorienting. The criminal justice system is a maze that you do not want to navigate on your own. If you lack skilled and experienced legal representation, the chances are high that you will get lost in the legal system. The ramifications will stick with you for the rest of your life.

We can help you turn things around and get your life back on track as quickly and painlessly as possible. If you’ve been arrested for public intoxication in Alabama, call on the experienced legal experts at Coumanis & York at 251-990-3083 (Daphne) or 251-431-7272 (Mobile). We can help you find justice and protect your rights. 

Alcohol and Spring Break—Getting Arrested for DUI in Alabama

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. 

I’ve Been Arrested for Drug Possession in Alabama—What Can I Expect Now?

If you’ve been arrested for drug possession in Alabama, your first and most important step is to call an attorney. Alabama laws governing possession of illegal substances are particularly harsh, and the effects, should you receive a conviction, will negatively impact your life forever.

Some drug possession offenses are governed by both Alabama laws and Federal law, which can make the offense even more serious in its implications and consequence.

Alabama Drug Possession—Class C Felony

Each state divides criminal penalties into two primary categories; Misdemeanor and felony. Felonies are the worst potential offenses, in terms of the penalties that can be levied against an individual.

Under Alabama law, there have traditionally been three felony classes, A, B, and C, with A carrying the heaviest penalties. In 2016, a new D class was created; but if you are convicted of illegal drug possession in Alabama, you are typically still sentenced under a Class C Felony. But how you’re sentenced depends on the type of drug, the amount involved, what you were doing at the time of arrest, and even your prior record.

Every felony in Alabama carries at least a one year and one day sentence in state prison. This means you should do everything in your power to never be convicted of a felony crime.

Under the C class designation, the law carries the following potential penalties:

  • A prison sentence of at least one year and one day up to no more than 10 years
  • Fines up to $15,000
  • You also will likely be charged court fees, if convicted.

Note that the courts “Explanation of Rights and Plea of Guilty” form spells out exactly what could happen if more than one Class C Felony accrues on your record:

  • Prior Felonies This offense 
  • No Prior Felonies 
  • One Prior Felony 
  • Two Prior Felonies 
  • Three + Prior Felonies 

Class C Felony 

1 Yr. & 1 Day – 10 Years In State Penitentiary Fine Up To $15,000 

2 – 20 Years
In State Penitentiary Fine Up To $30,000 

10 – 99 Years
In State Penitentiary Fine Up To $60,000 

15 – 99 Years or Life In State Penitentiary Fine Up To $60,000 

But what constitutes a C class illegal substance offense under the law? What drugs fall under these rules?

Possession of a Controlled Substance in Alabama

Alabama drug laws cover possession of illegal substances under the law but also include obtaining or trying to obtain these drugs. For example, if you alter a prescription to try to gain a controlled substance, you can be prosecuted.

Some of the substances that fall into this category include cocaine, crack, ecstasy, heroin, or methamphetamine. But it also covers legal prescription medications such as Adderall, Klonopin, OxyContin, Suboxone, and Xanax.

Possession of marijuana, although still an illegal substance, is covered under a different statute. In Alabama, a first-time possession charge for marijuana, which is far too common, is prosecuted under a Class A misdemeanor, which can include:

  • Asset forfeiture
  • Community Service 
  • Fines of up to $500
  • Probation
  • Up to a year in jail

Note that each state has a drug schedule that places each controlled substance into categories based on its ability to cause addiction or dependency. In Alabama, there are five schedules that cover drugs that have a low potential for abuse to those that are highly addictive. 

But the complexities of Alabama’s drug laws don’t end there. You can be charged for both actual or constructive possession of the controlled substance:

  • Actual drug possession is when the drug is physically on your person, such as in a backpack you’re wearing, a purse, or in your pocket.
  • Constructive possession is when the drugs are within the vicinity, meaning you could easily reach the drugs if you desired them. So, if the drugs are found in your car or your home, or you’re near them at a party, you can still be charged with possession.

But this too is complex, because you can also be charged with drug distribution or trafficking charges based on the volume of drugs you have in your possession and/or the type of alleged criminal conduct you are involved in at the time of your possession. These are typically Class B felonies under the law. Remember, the felony penalty designation can go all the way up to A, which has the harshest penalties.

Finally, a significant complexity and danger, is that the alleged drug conduct may be the subject of federal drug charges and may result in your case being prosecuted in Federal Court pursuant to federal drug charges that in many cases can be more severe and punitive than Alabama state court drug laws.

No matter the charge, being arrested for possession of drugs in Alabama is a terrifying, frustrating, and embarrassing experience and one that can be devastating to your future.

But being charged is one thing; being convicted is something far more detrimental to your life.

How to Fight Back If You’ve Been Charged with Illegal Drug Possession

Contact Coumanis & York immediately at 251-990-3083 (Daphne) or 251.431-7272 (Mobile) if you’ve been arrested on a drug possession charge. We can help. Do not speak to the police other than to ask for your attorney. In these situations, seeking legal counsel is the best advice. Our firm will aggressively fight for your rights and freedom while helping you find your way through the complex nature of the charges against you. Whether the charge is a first offense misdemeanor or a subsequent felony, we can help.