The Alabama DUI Court System
The factors that determine which court your Alabama DUI will be assigned to include the police agency that made the arrest and the number of prior drunk-driving convictions on your record.
If you have fewer than three previous DUI convictions, your case will either be sent to a municipal court or district court of the county, as this is considered a misdemeanor offense. If, however, you have three or more prior DUI convictions on your criminal record, your case will either be set for a preliminary hearing in the county district court or will be originally heard in the circuit court because the current case is classified as a felony (depending on how the prosecution was commenced). Municipal courts have no jurisdiction to adjudicate felony DUI cases.
If you were arrested by a county deputy, Alabama State Trooper, ABC Enforcement Agent, etc., your case will be docketed to the district court of the county where you were arrested. If you were arrested by a municipal officer in an area with a municipal court, your case will be sent there. However, if you were arrested by a municipal police officer who works for a jurisdiction that does not have a municipal court, your case will be docketed to the district court of the county.
Both municipal courts and district courts are deemed to be courts of “limited jurisdiction”. This means that they are limited in the types of cases they can adjudicate. Neither type of court has jurisdiction to adjudicate felony cases (the exception is that district courts can accept felony guilty pleas, unless they are capital cases). As well, district courts can hold preliminary hearings in felony cases.
In municipal and district courts, there is no right to a jury trial. If you elect to exercise your right to a trial in the municipal or district court, you are given a bench trial (only before a judge).
If you lose at trial in the municipal or district court, you have an absolute right to appeal your case to the circuit court of the county for a new trial. For an appeal to be correctly filed, two things must happen within 14 days from the pronouncement of sentence in the lower court: a written notice of appeal must be filed with municipal or district court clerk (depending on which court the case was tried in) along with an appeal bond. If these two things are not filed with the municipal or district court clerk (depending on which court the case was tried in) within 14 days, the appeal is time barred and the sentence of the lower court is imposed.
If the appeal is correctly and timely filed, the entire case is heard anew in the circuit court of the county.
At the circuit court level, you are entitled to a jury trial. You can waive this right and have a bench trial as in municipal or district court.
If you lose at the circuit court level, you have the right to appeal your case for review to both the Alabama Appellate Courts as well as Federal Appellate Courts.
Watch Our Helpful DUI Videos Below:
- Refuse the Breath Test
- One-Leg Stand Field Sobriety Test
- DUI Walk-and-Turn Test
- Failing the Roadside Breath Test
- Failing the Official Breath Test
- DUI Breath Test Machine
- Identifying Suspected Drunk Drivers
- Pulled Over For DUI by the Police
- Innocent Person Pleading Guilty For DUI
- DUI Impact of Fever on Breath Test