Alabama DUI Restitution Payments Challenged

Two Birmingham residents have filed a federal lawsuit, and are seeking class action status, following a DUI arrest in northern Alabama two years ago. ignitionkey.jpg

As our Birmingham DUI lawyers understand it, the issue in question are the restitution fees required by the City of Albertville after a DUI conviction.

The policy within the city is that there is a $500 restitution fee for criminal convictions. At issue is the fact that there is apparently no restitution hearing held and there is no chance for defendants to present evidence showing mitigating circumstances or a lack of personal or property damage that would warrant a lower restitution.

There is no question about it: DUIs in Alabama can be outrageously expensive, sometimes as much as $10,000. Here are some of the associated costs:

Bail. Depending on the exact crime with which you are charged, you will have to pay a bail amount of anywhere from $150 to $2,500.

Towing. If you are arrested, usually your car will get towed. That can run you anywhere from $100 to $1,200.

Insurance. If you are convicted, your insurance rates are likely to increase for at least the next three years, and probably for the next five years. They could double, triple or sometimes even quadruple. Some companies may even drop you after an arrest.

Legal fees. This is really going to depend on the individual facts of your case. You may be able to find a lawyer willing to do the job for very cheap, but that’s only if you choose to go in and simply make a guilty plea. This isn’t usually advisable, given the negative impact of a conviction.

Fines. These could be anywhere from $600 to $10,000 in Alabama, depending on your blood alcohol content and how many prior convictions you have.

Ignition interlock. If you blow over a 0.15 BAC in Alabama, you can now be required to install a $600 ignition interlock device in your vehicle for the next two to three years.

So given all this, it’s no wonder that someone facing a DUI conviction is interested in driving down costs. But in looking more closely at the facts of the case, the defendants’ argument does appear to have legal merit.

Both were arrested in 2010. The two were arrested for DUI in 2010. As there had been no injuries or property damage and it marked a first offense for each, they were granted a deferred prosecution, which essentially means they would not face jail time if certain criteria was met. That criteria included the requirement to pay $189 in court fees and then another $500 restitution fee, payable to the city.

Restitution fees are legal in Alabama under the Code of Alabama, title 15-18-67. However, the law mandates that the court has to hold a hearing to determine the amount or type of restitution due to the victim.

The argument in this case is that no such hearings were held. The defendants claim the city is levying these payments as a form of revenue, rather than an actual restitution effort.

We’ll be closely following this case to see how the federal court decides.

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