Stopped for DUI in Alaska: 6 Things to Know
Legislators and law enforcement officials in Alaska brag that the state has one of the toughest DWI/DUI laws in the country. The state is one of a handful in the country that has zero tolerance when it comes to young drivers. While the state follows the standard .08 blood alcohol content level (BAC) as the legal limit for most adults, drivers 21 and younger cannot register any BAC. If they do, they face a DUI arrest. Additionally, Alaska has a 15-year “washout” period. If a driver has another DWI within that period, penalties can be enhanced. In many other states, the washout period is 10 years or less.
If you are stopped for DUI in Alaska, here are six things you need to know.
1. Implied consent and sobriety testing
If you have a driver’s license in Alaska, you have consented – though that consent is implied – to submit to chemical tests if a law enforcement officer has probable cause to make a drunk driving arrest. These tests include blood, urine and sophisticated breath tests and generally are performed at a police station. The implied consent law does not cover sobriety field tests. You can legally refuse a sobriety field test and there will be no consequences. In fact, many criminal attorneys say that the field tests are designed for anyone unfamiliar with them – even sober drivers – to fail.
2. Refusing the chemical test
While Alaska’s implied consent law requires that drivers submit to chemical testing, any driver can refuse the test. However, that is equivalent to breaking a law in the state and there are consequences. For a first offense, refusing the test results means 3 days in jail, mandatory ignition interlock and a fine of up to $1,500. That increases for the second and third offenses. Also, criminal law experts say refusing the test does not irreparably damage the state’s case. It is common for Alaska prosecutors to win DWI convictions based on the observations from the police officer. In addition, the fact that you refused the test will be used by prosecutors as evidence of your guilt.
3. Expect to be video recorded
Criminal lawyers say it’s a good idea to expect that any DWI arrest will be captured on a video camera set up on the police officer’s dash. In addition, more and more officers are wearing miniature cameras as part of their uniforms. The best way to handle a DWI stop, according to criminal attorneys, is to say and do as little as possible (though you should get out of the car, if the officer asks). Be courteous and respectful, but don’t get into animated conversations. A simple misstep could be interpreted by prosecutors as evidence that you were impaired.
4. More than .08 to worry about
If you drive an 18-wheeler, a school bus or many other vehicles that require a commercial license, you have a much stricter drinking and driving limit. Instead of the .08 BAC limit for other adult drivers, there is a BAC limit of .04 or higher for anyone with a commercial driver’s license. And, of course, there is zero tolerance for young drivers. That means that someone 21 or younger need only have a single drink, in many cases, to trigger a DUI arrest.
5. DUI penalties in Alaska
If you are convicted of a first offense DUI in Alaska you will face a minimum of 3 days in jail, a $1,500 fine and a minimum 90-day license suspension. All convictions require that an interlock ignition device be placed on your vehicle. In addition to a cost of about $100 a month, the device will not allow the car to start if it measures a BAC of .02 or higher, assuming the driver isn’t 21 or younger. If you have a second conviction within 15 years, the penalties increase to a minimum of 20 days in jail, a fine of $3,000 and a minimum 1-year driver’s license suspension. For a fourth offense within 15 years, the fine increases to as much as $10,000 and the license suspension must be at least 5 years. A felony DUI, which is possible based on the circumstances of the crime, triggers much stiffer penalties. The mandatory minimum for a 1st offense felony DUI is 120 days in jail and a $10,000 fine.
6. Total cost of a DUI in Alaska
The Division of Motor Vehicles in Alaska has estimated that a first-time DUI conviction costs more than $24,000. That includes about $1,300 to have an ignition interlock device installed on your vehicle for a year, $850 for the administrative hearing to have your driver’s license restored, more than $600 to have your vehicle impounded and up to $10,000 for the increased cost of insurance over a 5-year-period. The total also includes the cost of a criminal defense attorney and standard court costs as well as a $1,500 fine for a DWI conviction. Not included is the potential cost of losing a job, particularly any job that required driving as part of the employment responsibilities.
The purpose of this article is informational only. For legal advice, please see an attorney.