Alabama's new drunk driving laws add pressure

As of July 1, Alabama law enforcement officers have new weapons at their disposal in the form of additional penalties for charges of driving under the influence (DUI). A DUI charge can be brought against anyone that an officer reasonably believes is driving while intoxicated on drugs or alcohol.

Now, anyone arrested for drunk driving has to agree to have an ignition interlock device on their car -- even before conviction -- if they want to keep their license. The ignition lock must stay in place for a minimum of six months if an individual enters a pretrial diversion program. While many states make use of ignition locks to keep repeat drunk drivers off the road, most don't require first-time offenders to have them. Alabama officials, however, take the view that the interlock devices are most effective when used on first-time offenders.

In addition to the ignition interlocks, the "look-back" period the court uses to determine penalties for DUIs has been extended from five years to 10. Under the previous rule, two DUIs separated by six years or more would each be treated as a "first" offense, which carries significantly less stringent penalties than subsequent offenses.

Ultimately, this is stressful news for many drivers in the state -- particularly if they already have a DUI on their records. A second drunk or drugged driving mistake within a decade's worth of time could leave someone with a felony conviction that could affect the remainder of their lives. Plus, the interlock devices are expensive for drivers, who will have to foot the bill for the use of the device on their cars or prove that they can't afford them.

Given the serious nature of the penalties for drunk or drugged driving, it's always wisest to get experienced legal advice to best protect your rights.

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