DUI Look-back Periods

Alabama has a 5 year “look back” period when convicting DUI cases. Previous drunk driving charges can only be considered if they have occurred in the past five years. For instance, a driver may have been convicted of drunk driving seven times in one year, say, 2007. They had a very bad year. Assuming they have somehow been released from prison or jail, that person can be caught drunk driving in 2013 and it will be treated as their first DUI.

Alabama is one of the most lenient states when concerning DUI look-back periods. Other states with a five-year back period include Colorado and Missouri. Look-back periods (also referred to as washout periods) vary by state, and often states will change their DUI laws. For instance, until 2008, Georgia had a five year look-back period. The law was amended in 2008 so now Georgia will review any DUI conviction on your record in the past ten years.

States with lifetime look-back periods include Kansas and Massachusetts. In Michigan, a third DUI will be charged as a felony, after the ten year look-back period was dropped in 2007 under a new law called Heidi’s Law. This is an example of how social pressure can change a state’s DUI laws.

Heidi Steiner was a northern Michigan high school senior who was killed by a drunk driver named Danny Buffman in 1991. Buffman served a prison term and was eventually released. He was arrested again for DUI in 2005, but was charged as if were his first DUI because more than 10 years had passed since his 1991 conviction. Even though his DUI (referred to as OWI in Michigan) record included manslaughter, his record could only be looked at from 1995-2005.

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