ALABAMA FORCES PUSHING FOR TOUGHER DUI LAWS
Last year a bill that increased penalties for some DUI convictions stalled in the Alabama Senate. This year, the bill has been reintroduced by State Senator Rusty Glover (Republican, 34th District, Mobile). The bill (SB10) was pre-filed back in October of 2008 and comes up for action in the Judiciary Committee in the beginning of February, 2009. The bill is more likely to pass this session, because last year's Judiciary Committee Chairman (Roger Smitherman, D-Jefferson) is expected to move to a new post as Senate Pro-tem.
The bill would double the minimum penalties for drivers with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.15 percent (a BAC of 0.08 is the legal limit in Alabama). It would also increase the number of years a previous DUI would remain 'active'. Currently, Alabama has a 'look back' of five years. A DUI older than five years is dropped from consideration for subsequent DUI sentencing. In addition, the legislation would add a provision for mandatory ignition interlock devices (IIDs). These require drivers to 'blow clean' before their car will start. Along with this, it is expected that a course of treatment and counseling will be required.
While it is impossible to predict what final form the law will take, DUI legislation in other states trends toward stiffer fines and more punishment. Arguments against raising the penalties revolve around the collateral damage inflicted on those convicted and their families. Generally, victims of a DUI conviction are required to bear the burden of installing and maintaining an IID, often with no clear time limit for how long it has to be in place. Further, lack of transportation and loss of income (driver's license suspension/revocation and jail time) leads to a downward spiral driven by higher expenses (fines and fees) simultaneous with a reduced ability to meet these financial obligations (loss of employment).
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