However, late last year, state lawmakers passed a measure that not only increased penalties for drunk driving overall, it made our state the last in the country to enact ignition interlock requirements for those convicted.
Although the measure passed last year, our Birmingham DUI lawyers understand that it won’t go into effect until September, meaning we have a few months to educate clients and potential clients about what exactly these devices are and what they are going to mean for you.
You’re probably at least somewhat familiar with ignition interlock devices, given their pervasiveness throughout the rest of the country. Essentially, they are electronic devices that are affixed to your personal vehicle (at your expense) and they require that a person pass a breathalyzer test prior to the vehicle starting.
The legal limit with regard to blood alcohol content is of course 0.08 percent. However, there is some talk of lowering that limit on the interlock ignition devices due to liability purposes. As Sarah Longwell of the American Beverage Institute explained in a recent editorial, a person’s blood alcohol level doesn’t peak immediately after they consume an alcoholic beverage. So someone who gets behind the wheel could theoretically blow under the legal limit, but then have their blood alcohol content spike as they continue to drive. That means that manufacturers will likely set the limit below the legal limit, which is something that should concern everyone, particularly considering that there is discussion at the national level of having these devices installed in all new vehicles – not just those driven by those convicted of a DUI.
For now, though, the current measure in Alabama will only affect those who have been convicted of a DUI offense. It will be required for certain first-time offenders who blow over 0.15 at the time of their arrest, and it will be required for all repeat offenders.
This raises the stakes for anyone who has been arrested for a DUI because these devices are expensive and they could inhibit your travel if you’ve had even one drink.
This is a concern from a safety standpoint as well. Consider the fact that you may be stranded in a potentially dangerous situation with these devices if you’ve had even one drink.
What this means is that you’ve got an increased incentive not to simply plead guilty to a DUI, regardless of what evidence you believe may exist against you. A skilled attorney is often able to negotiate lower charges and penalties, particularly for first-time offenders.
Another aspect of the new law which is important to mention is that of increased penalties for aggravated DUI. This is a DUI charge that results from someone blowing a 0.15 percent or higher. The previous law had only spelled out punishments for a DUI conviction based on the 0.08 percent figure. This measure, which has already gone into effect, doubles all penalties – fines and incarceration terms – for anyone convicted of being behind the wheel with a higher blood alcohol content.