Alabama governor wants tougher drunken driving punishment

| 11/1/2007

Gov. Bob Riley is expected to call on Alabama state lawmakers to close loopholes in the state’s drunken driving laws. He also wants new penalties for people caught driving with excessive blood alcohol levels.

The proposed legislation would focus on an anomaly in the state’s laws for driving under the influence. Alabama law now allows for a longer minimum sentence for a third DUI offense than a fourth offense.

Riley also wants to eliminate a provision that says only prior DUI convictions within the past five years can be considered at sentencing. Another change sought by the governor would double the minimum punishment for people convicted of driving with a blood-alcohol content of at least 0.15 percent – nearly twice the legal limit of 0.08 percent.

Currently, first offenses for driving with a BAC of at least 0.15 percent can result in fines up to $600 and 90-day suspensions of driver’s licenses. Riley is calling for drunken drivers to face at least $1,200 fines and loss of driving privileges for one year.

The governor’s administration says about 40 percent of fatal highway wrecks in Alabama involve alcohol. More than half of the alcohol-related crashes involve drivers who have alcohol readings more than 0.15 percent, The Associated Press reported.

Additional incentive to approve the stricter rules is coming from the federal government. The state stands to lose $2 million annually in federal funding for state troopers if it doesn’t adopt five of eight “alcohol impaired” driving countermeasures by next year.

Alabama is one of 11 states that doesn’t have enhanced penalties for drivers convicted of DUI with a high blood-alcohol content.

The governor is expected to propose the bill to lawmakers during the session that begins Feb. 5.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Alabama in 2007, click here.