Snowball Sentencing:

DUI Sentencing in Alabama


We’ve all heard the phrase “snowball effect”: something starts as a small thing, then quickly builds upon itself and becomes much larger. What began as a handheld snowball at the top of the mountain quickly becomes the size of a car by the time it reaches the bottom. This is a fitting metaphor for understanding sentencing in DUI cases. Alabama law sets forth aggravating factors that can dramatically increase the penalty for any DUI offense, as well as increasingly harsh penalties for repeat offenders. It’s important to understand what factors can make the consequences of a DUI conviction more serious than it would appear at first glance.

A DUI conviction can affect your driving privileges, your employment status, and even your freedom. If you’re currently facing a DUI charge, give us a call at (256)770-7232 to schedule an attorney consultation.

Alabama's Five-Year Rule

In an effort to crack down on repeat DUI offenders, Alabama passed a mandatory sentencing structure based on the number of DUI convictions a person has had within the previous five (5) years. These sentences, found in Alabama Code §§ 32-5A-191(e)-(h), are progressively harsher. Each subsequent conviction includes longer jail sentences, driver’s license suspensions, and required use of (and payment for) an ignition interlock system. See the table below:

Table DUI Sentencing.png

As you can see, having multiple DUI convictions in a five-year span can mean racking up serious costs and jail time! Not to mention the collateral consequences that can come with a DUI conviction or a felony conviction (employment status, welfare benefits, etc.). What may first appear as possible probation with court costs can quickly become mandatory prison sentences and loss of your driver’s license for years.

Aggravating Factors and Double Minimum Punishment Penalty

In addition to the five-year rule, other factors can drastically increase the sentencing range for even a first DUI offense.

Double Minimum Punishment Penalty

  • When a person is convicted of any DUI offense while at a BAC (blood alcohol content) of 0.15% or greater, the minimum sentence is doubled.
    • Example: Second offense in 5 years (with BAC <0.15%) – minimum 5-day jail sentence, minimum fine of $1,100
    • Second offense in 5 years (with BAC at or above 0.15%) – minimum 10-day jail sentence, minimum fine of $2,200

Ignition Interlock

  • Ignition interlock system is required for first DUI offenses if any of the following apply:
    • Defendant’s BAC was 0.15% or higher,
    • Defendant refused to submit to a breath test,
    • A child of 14 years or younger was in the vehicle at the time of the offense, or
    • Someone other than the defendant was injured in a traffic accident.



In short, the DUI sentencing ranges can vary greatly depending on the presence of certain factors and the number of previous offenses within the previous five years. It is paramount for DUI lawyers to obtain as much information as they can before giving advice to their clients. Furthermore, it is just as important for those charged with DUI to be upfront with their attorney during intake. Only then can the attorney can give them the most accurate outlook on their situation.

The attorneys at Enzor & Maniscalco are ready and willing to guide you through any DUI charge you may be facing. Give us a call to schedule your attorney consultation.