A Sad State of Affairs…Alabama’s New DUI Statute Destined for Failure Once Again
The Alabama legislature makes a legal mess every time it passes a new law. The 2012 changes to the DUI statute are no exception to the rule.
On September 1, 2012, the substantive provisions of the DUI ignition interlock statute take effect. The new law made several changes to the existing DUI statute, such as requiring an ignition interlock device for offenders who refuse to submit to blood alcohol analysis or those who submit to testing with a result of .15 or above. But as history teaches us, each time the Alabama legislature endeavors to “get tough” on DUI, they end up achieving the exact opposite result. Case in point? The 2006 Amendments. In 2006, the Alabama legislature attempted to close a loophole that had developed in the the law: Prior DUI convictions in municipal courts, as well as out-of-state convictions, could not be counted as prior offenses for sentencing purposes, as the legislature had not properly worded the statute. So, the legislature specifically stated that prior convictions in municipal courts or from other states would count for sentencing purposes. But in doing so, they accidentally used language from another portion of the statute, and stated that prior convictions “within a five year period” would count. This had the effect of forgiving all prior DUI convictions that fell outside the five year time frame. Hundreds, if not thousands, of offenders were immediately affected by the change. Many facing felony (4th) DUI charges with lengthy potential prison sentences were transformed overnight into first time offenders, as their prior fells outside the five year time frame. The legislature never admitted the mistake, and amending the statute to take out the “five year” language would be an admission of their incompetence, so shockingly, the language remains in the statute today. The 2012 Amendments are similarly riddled with loopholes and drafting errors, not to mention that the State is woefully unprepared to institute a statewide interlock installation program. As a result, the appellate courts will be flooded with a series of challenges to the new statute in the years that follow that will demonstrate the legislature’s incompetence yet again.