First: It is NOT Illegal to Drink & Drive in Alabama! Know Your DUI Statute Basics!
Under the Alabama DUI statute you are only guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol if you are impaired. The most common way that a DUI is charged, (a)(2), says that a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or higher creates a (rebuttable) presumption that you are impaired. A BAC of .06 or .07 gives rise to no presumption - therefore, other facts will be more important as it relates to impairment. A BAC of .05 or less gives rise to a presumption that you are not impaired by alcohol.
DUI Subsection (a)(1): Requires the Prosecutor to Prove Your BAC was .08 or Higher
The (a)(1) charge would seem to be the easiest charge to prove where the BAC is .08 or higher. However, this subsection is charged much less often than the (a)(2) charge. This is because if the breath test result is not allowed into evidence the case is over. Also, there are many ways to attack the breath test result, its reliability and it's actual significance, in a DUI charge. For one thing, the prosecutor must show that your BAC was .08 or higher AT THE TIME you were driving. Often, the breath test result is obtained 30 minutes to an hour later. That creates a proof problem. Likewise, because a burp or acid reflux can affect the breath test result, the (a)(1) charge can be risky. It makes the breath test result an all or nothing proposition.
DUI Subsection (a)(2): Requires the Prosecutor to Prove You Were So Impaired You Were Unable to safely Operate Your Automobile
If you are charged under subsection (a)(2) the prosecutor will be required to prove that you were impaired to such a degree that you were unable to safely operate your automobile. If you have a BAC of .08 or greater there is a presumption that you are impaired. However, this presumption is rebuttable. Additionally, the prosecutor still must prove that this level of impairment was such that you were unable to safely operate your automobile. Evidence of how your driving was, how you performed on field sobriety tests (FSTs), how your speech was, etc. are things that can overcome this presumption.
Plead NOT GUILTY at Your Arraignment!
Many people erroneously believe that if they blow over the legal limit they must automatically be guilty. Nothing could be further from the truth. Regardless of what your BAC was ... plead not guilty at your arraignment. This will buy you time and give you an opportunity to consult with an attorney and determine what options you have. An experienced DUI attorney can often find the weaknesses in a case that provide an opportunity for success even where the BAC is considerably higher than .08. Further, many attorneys offer a free consultation. There are many ways to attack a DUI charge and defend it to a not guilty conclusion and the only way to know how yours compares is to plead not guilty at the arraignment and consult with an experienced DUI attorney.
What to Do About Your Driver's License
If the police officer takes your driver's license and sends a copy of the AST 60 (a form that he/she is required to fill out) to the Alabama Department of Public Safety (DPS) then your license will be suspended "administratively" 45 days after the date of your arrest. DPS will send a notice of this suspension in the mail and advise you of the exact date the suspension begins. You may request an administrative hearing but you must do so within 10 days from the date of your arrest. If you receive the notice of suspension, an attorney familiar with the associated procedures can take steps to reduce this suspension time or even eliminate it.
If your license is not suspended administratively, your license will only be suspended if you are convicted of the underlying DUI. It is well worth your time to see what your options are, how the license suspension proceeds independently of the DUI, and how the two may impact each other throughout the process.