Why You Should Not Give a Breath Test During a DUI Investigation

Advice given to those who are stopped for driving under the influence runs across the entire spectrum. You have people saying that you should comply with every request, take all requested tests, and be as cooperative as possible. On the other end, you have those who say you should not answer any questions or engage in any tests until you are legally required to.

This is partially because of differences between each state’s laws. Knowing what to do during a DUI stop in Alabama can mean the difference between dropped charges and a conviction. If you’ve been arrested and you don’t know what to do next, we can help. Call Coumanis & York at 251-990-3083.

The Difference Between Field Sobriety Tests and Post-Arrest Tests

Before you understand why you should not take a breathalyzer test during a traffic stop, you have to know the difference between field tests and post-arrest tests. While on patrol, police officers carry a portable breath test with them to use during stops where they suspect a driver is impaired. These tests lack a slope detector, so it is very easy to get a false positive read. The breathalyzer test used at police departments is much more accurate and reliable.

Here’s another key difference: you can refuse the roadside breath test without penalty. You cannot refuse the breath test they order after an arrest without consequences. Alabama has an implied consent law. This means that you consent to a breath or blood test after an arrest as a condition of receiving a drivers’ license. If you refuse the test after an arrest—also known as an evidential test—you will face license suspension and other possible penalties.

How a Field Breathalyzer Test Can Hurt Your Case

You may wonder what the harm is in taking a breath test. If you haven’t been drinking to excess, a breath test could absolve you, right? That isn’t necessarily the case. Remember, if a police officer stops you, they are looking for the evidence they need to arrest you. They aren’t looking for evidence to exonerate you and send you on your way.

When you submit to an optional breath test, you are handing them the evidence they need to make an arrest! These machines are not always accurate, so you could actually harm the case for your innocence by taking a test.

Without sufficient evidence, the police cannot arrest you for driving under the influence. If you take the test, you give them the evidence they need. If you refuse the optional test, they cannot force you to take one until they arrest you.

This principle is similar to the commonly given piece of advice that you shouldn’t speak to a police officer about a criminal situation without a lawyer present. This is because anything you say or do can be used against you as they build a case against you. Your choice to take a roadside breath test will not help you; the very best possible outcome is that it has a neutral effect, which is not worth the risk.

What to Do During a DUI Traffic Stop

Instead of handing over evidence to the police and weakening your own chance at freedom, follow these tips if you are stopped for driving under the influence.

  • Do not take any field sobriety tests. This includes the eye gaze test, the standing on one foot test, and the walking in a straight line test. These are like roadside breath tests. They can only hurt you, not help you.
  • Be respectful during the traffic stop. Being confrontational or argumentative with the police is never a good idea. Even if you are completely in the right and you were stopped unfairly, do not get aggressive or start an argument.
  • Make sure you have your required documents ready. When you are stopped, get out your driver’s license, insurance, and registration.
  • Be ready to call an attorney if you are arrested. DUI charges are serious. Be ready to call an attorney if the need arises.

How Coumanis & York Can Help You After a DUI Arrest

We’re here to help if you or someone you love has been arrested for driving while impaired. Hiring an attorney is the best way to protect your rights throughout this process. Get in touch with us now by calling us at 251-990-3083 or reaching out to us online.

Can a DUI Be Expunged in Alabama?

With the laws regarding expungement changing in Alabama multiple times over the last several years, those who have been arrested or convicted of driving under the influence might wonder if they have a chance at a fresh start. Learn more about DUI expungement in Alabama, if it’s an option for you, and what your next step is.

If you’re considering pursuing expungement or weighing your options regarding a current DUI case, let us help. Call the team at Coumanis & York at 251-990-3083.

Deferred Prosecution

Deferred prosecution refers to programs that allow those arrested under certain charges to complete a pre-trial diversion program. This option is generally only available to first-time offenders and those who did not cause bodily injury while driving under the influence. If you violate the terms of your diversion program, the court moves forward with the trial process.

If you complete your program without issue, this generally results in charges being dismissed. This may allow you to pursue expungement. However, in this situation, you must wait for one year after the completion of your program to apply for expungement.

Expungement After a DUI Conviction

If your DUI arrest leads to a conviction, expungement is not an option for you. Currently, Alabama expungement laws only allow for expungement when charges are dismissed or when an individual is acquitted after trial. If you were convicted of driving under the influence, that will remain on your record for the rest of your life.

Expungement After a Case That Was Dismissed Without Prejudice

Having a case dismissed without prejudice is slightly different from having it dismissed with prejudice. A case dismissed without prejudice can still be refiled at a later date, so this essentially leaves the door open for prosecutors.

Because of this uncertainty, you must meet certain restrictions to apply for expungement after cases are dismissed without prejudice. The case must have been dismissed two or more years before you file for expungement. The case must not have been refiled. You must not have convicted of any other crime during the previous two years.

When Charges Are Dismissed

If charges are dismissed with prejudice, you can begin the process.

The process is the same across the board. You must file a petition and attend hearings scheduled by the court. While deciding whether or not to grant your expungement, the court will consider 10 different factors. These factors include the nature and severity of the crime, the date of the offense, how old you were at the time of the offense, and if it was an isolated or repeated incident.

Why You Need an Attorney

Hiring an attorney before you begin the expungement process is highly recommended. In addition to an administrative fee of $300, you’ll likely have to pay other county court fees to submit your petition and have it considered. Furthermore, this process can be very mentally draining and take a substantial amount of time.

Working with an attorney allows you to consider your case from every angle, think about whether or not expungement is likely to be granted, and find out whether or not there are ways you can strengthen your case. This allows you to make the most of your petition and avoid errors that could result in a denial.

If you are looking into expungement as an option for a DUI case that is still in progress, you should also hire a lawyer for that. Some people plead guilty to speed through the process, assuming that they will be able to have their record expunged down the road. If that’s what you’re thinking, contact an attorney now. A conviction cannot be expunged, and beyond that, there are dozens of ways a DUI guilty plea can affect you for the rest of your life. This is not an area where you want to gamble with your future.

Find Out How We Can Help

Expungement is one way to give yourself a fresh start and move on from past mistakes. If you qualify for expungement in Alabama, we’re here to guide you through the process. Set up a consultation now by calling Coumanis & York at 251-990-3083 or getting in touch online.

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.