How and when are "points" entered on a person's driver license?
What - exactly - are "points" on an Alabama driver license?
There is a lot of confusion about "points" entered on an Alabama driver license report and how a motorist can avoid "points" if issued a traffic citation. The starting place is to recognize that "points" only apply to regular Class D operator licenses; there is no application to CDLs which are treated entirely differently. Under present Alabama statutory law, "points" are entered on an Alabama driver license when a motorist is "convicted" in a court of law, either in-state or out of state. Only a "conviction" will authorize the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency to place the applicable number of points against the licensee.
"Points" are established under Code section 32-5A-195 (k)(2) which states: "(k) The Secretary of the Alabama State Law Enforcement Agency is authorized to suspend the license of a driver without preliminary hearing upon a showing by its records or other sufficient evidence that the licensee:...(2) Has been convicted with such frequency of serious offenses against traffic regulations governing the movement of vehicles as to indicate a disrespect for traffic laws and a disregard for the safety of other persons on the highways;..." [remainder of section omitted]
Since the term "frequency of traffic offenses" is not statutorily defined in the Code of Alabama, the Secretary of Law Enforcement (previously Director of Public Safety) has established a "point system" for traffic violations depending upon the perceived seriousness of the offense. The exact number of "points" for any traffic violation are established under the Alabama Administrative Code, Rule 760-X-1-.07. The points range from two points for simple speeding (speed violation less than 26 m.p.h. over the posted limit) up to six points for reckless driving. As examples, the violation of 'wrong side of the road' (32-5A-80) has an assigned value of four points; failure to yield the right of way carries a five point assignment. Each violation carries its own "point" value.
A licensee is authorized to accumulate 12 points in any 24 month period before formal notice of suspension is sent to the licensee. "Points" automatically 'roll off' the licensee's driver license abstract exactly 24 months from the date of conviction (and not the date of the violation). Since the ALEA Secretary is "authorized" - but not required - to suspend the driver license, the suspension is discretionary in nature and may be challenged at a due process hearing which must be afforded the licensee. If issued a traffic citation and you decide to pay the fine without contesting the case in a court of law, that constitutes a "conviction" whether you appeared in court of not. The ALEA Secretary is required to enter all convictions against the licensee's motor vehicle report (MVR). Upon receiving notice of conviction, "points" are automatically assigned by the Driver License Division computer. In other words, if you decide to pay the fine, that is a final conviction which cannot be later set aside or appealed. The clerk of the court where the conviction is entered will send notice of conviction to ALEA and the conviction will then be entered on the MVR and will remain on the MVR for three (3) years.
How Can You Avoid "Points" on your MVR?
The simplest way to avoid "points" is not to get stopped for a traffic violation! While it may sound silly, it might be pointed out in the first place that obeying the traffic code will save you a lot of money, time, and needless frustration. Do the simple things - wear your seat, don't use a mobile device while driving (and especially don't be texting while driving!), don't be eating, drinking or snaking in the car, stay in the right hand lane of any four lane highway, keep both hands on the steering wheel, and so forth. All of those common-sense ideas will help you avoid getting stopped in the first place. Another 'common-sense' idea is to drive plain color cars that have no flash, no chrome, and above all, no 'wings' on the tail. A red colored or canary yellow colored vehicle will immediately draw the patrol officer's attention, but the same vehicle in a neutral grey, beige, or light earth tone - doing exactly the same driving behavior - will not attract attention.
OK - you get stopped by the police. Now what? First, don't argue with the officer. You may get two tickets instead of one just for obstinate behavior. Don't admit anything, but don't argue. Above all, don't make any implied threats of retribution to the officer, such as: "I know the mayor; he'll look into this!" or "Officer, you're making a big mistake by giving me this ticket; this could cost you your job!" That type attitude is a big mistake on your part and may well cause the officer to negate any chance at 'case dismissed' or alternative adjudication.
Third - Don't simply pay the ticket! That is the #1 all time mistake that most motorists make. Take your time and wait it out. Ask for a court date and then ask for a continuance. If you're serious about this, hire a attorney that specializes in traffic violations and let the attorney handle the entire case.
Fourth - Recognize that the ticket you received is a small part of the overall court and law enforcement operational plan to have motorists pay a good part of the court's operating overhead as well as the law enforcement agency's operational mission. While police agencies uniformly deny that a "quota" exists, the real fact is that every patrol officer is expected to write at least a few tickets per shift to justify the 'activity index' or 'measurable standard of activity' that police agencies use to justify manpower and budget requests. Recognize that the officer is under some degree - in some cases, under considerable degree - of command pressure to write sufficient number of tickets to avoid a low evaluation and possible loss of any overtime incentive pay. If the officer reasonably believes that he must generate four or five tickets per day to satisfy the police command staff, then it is not "personal" when the officer issues a citation, but merely just doing the minimum to get by and not get in 'hot water' with the police supervisors. In most instances, the officer does not care if the ticket is dismissed - unless you caused the officer a lot of grief by arguing or insulting or threatening the officer. In that case, do not expect the any favorable treatment.
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