What is a DUI in Alaska?
In Alaska, Drunken or drugged driving (known as DUI or Driving Under the Influence) is a severe offense with dire consequences. However, what constitutes a DUI offense varies with the jurisdiction where the driver lives or the offense occurs. Regardless of the judicial district, however, when a person operates a vehicle while intoxicated by drugs, alcohol, or other controlled substances, they may be charged with a DUI in Alaska.
In Alaska, an individual can be arrested for a DUI if their blood alcohol level surpasses the legal limits while driving or operating a vehicle, aircraft, or watercraft. Depending on the nature and severity of the offense, the offender may be charged with a misdemeanor or felony for violating the state's DUI laws outlined in Title 28 of the Alaska Statutes. In many cases, this charge is featured in the offender's Alaska criminal record unless the charge is dismissed or the offender is acquitted.
The penalties for a DUI offense become worse with frequent violations, when a life is lost, or when another person suffers a severe injury because of a driver's intoxication. These penalties include jail time, fines, driver license suspensions or revocations, and community service, among others. Receiving a DUI conviction from the state courts can also increase auto insurance rates and make it difficult to get a job.
What is the Difference Between a DWI and a DUI in Alaska?
In the U.S, the terms 'DUI' and 'DWI' may be used interchangeably or have slightly varying meanings depending on the judicial district. In certain U.S. states, the official name for driving while impaired by drugs, alcohol, or other substances is DUI (Driving Under the Influence). In others, it is DWI (Driving While Impaired/Intoxicated). Some states may classify one as the aggravated version of the other or view a DUI as an offense committed when a person operates a vehicle under the influence of alcohol and view a DWI as operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) above a certain level. Also, in some jurisdictions, a DWI can mean impairment by substances other than alcohol (e.g., over-the-counter medication), and a DUI may only be used to refer to alcohol impairment.
However, Alaska uses the term DUI, although, before 2001, DWI was the official term for impaired driving in the state.
Alaska DUI Laws
- It is a crime for an individual to drive or operate a motor vehicle, aircraft, or watercraft while under the influence of intoxicating liquors, alcoholic beverages, inhalants, or other controlled substances, or a combination thereof.
- It is also considered a DUI in Alaska if:
- Within four hours of driving, an individual has a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or higher,
- A commercial vehicle driver's BAC is .04% or higher.
- An underage driver's (aged less than 21 years) BAC results show any alcohol concentration.
In the above context, "operating a vehicle" means that the individual controls the vehicle. As such, sitting in the driver's seat of a vehicle may lead to DUI charges in Alaska.
Several institutions manage and prosecute drunk driving offenders in Alaska, they include:
- The Alaska Court System
- The Department of Public Safety (DPS)
- The Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
- The Center for Safe Alaskans
These agencies penalize and rehabilitate DUI offenders, promoting road safety and community wellbeing by ultimately reducing the rate of DUI offenses in the state. The courts oversee the punishment of offenders and the rehabilitation of repeat offenders through therapeutic court programs. On the other hand, the DMV, a division of the Department of Administration, is responsible for suspending or revoking the licenses of convicted adult or underage drivers.
DUI Penalties in Alaska
A person stopped or arrested for a DUI (Driving Under the Influence) offense in Alaska will face criminal prosecution and administrative license actions from the Division of Motor Vehicles. These penalties vary by case but generally include:
- Incarceration in a jail or correctional facility
- Fines, surcharges, and other court-ordered costs (e.g., cost of imprisonment)
- Community service
- Loss of driving privileges
- Substance abuse classes
- Installation of an ignition interlock device
The offender may also be made to:
- Pay for damages caused by the offense,
- Forfeit their vehicle as described in AS 28.35.036 (though this is more common for repeat offenders), or
- Take prescription drugs to prevent alcohol consumption.
Apart from the legal consequences endured by the offender, a DUI can also affect the offender's life as follows:
- The offender's auto insurance rates may increase.
- The conviction will be listed on the offender's criminal record and available to employers.
- The offender's occupational license may be suspended.
- The DUI conviction may prevent the offender from entering Canada or a foreign country.
The above penalties also apply to individuals convicted for refusing to submit to a chemical test under AS 28.35.032. Furthermore, Alaska prosecutes underage DUI offenders as adults. Hence, a person under 18 years old will be subject to the same penalties imposed on adult offenders.
What Happens When You Get a DWI in Alaska?
Driving while intoxicated or otherwise impaired in Alaska is known as a DUI, not DWI. While the terms can mean the same thing in some U.S. jurisdictions, Alaska does not use them interchangeably or mention any consequences for being charged with a DWI in its statutes.
Any person accused of drunk driving or refusing to submit to a chemical test in Alaska will be prosecuted for a misdemeanor or felony. Court proceedings will occur before a six-person jury in a district court if it is the offender's first or second DUI. If the defendant has two or more previous DUI convictions, the court will hear the case in a superior court before a twelve-person jury.
Unlike other traffic offenses, a defendant may not easily escape the court's jurisdiction by paying a traffic ticket fine without appearing in court. DUI's are seen as offenses against public safety. Therefore, the police will often arrest the drunk driver on the spot and take them to court if found to be intoxicated past the legal limit.
What Happens When You Get a DUI for the First Time in Alaska?
Following a DUI conviction in Alaska, an individual will be subject to mandatory and discretionary penalties, assessed based on the offender's driver status (commercial or non-commercial driver) and prior convictions.
An individual who has not been offense-free for at least 15 years is regarded as a first-time offender in Alaska. Such a person is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor. The penalties for a first DUI are stated in AS 28.35.030:
- At least 72 hours of imprisonment
- A fine of at least $1,500
- Ignition interlock device (IID) for at least six months
- Revocation of driving privilege or license for at least 90 days
In addition, if the offense occurred with a commercial vehicle, the offender will be banned (disqualified) from using a commercial vehicle for at least one year. (Note that commercial drivers convicted of first DUI are sentenced as though they have a previous DUI conviction. Hence, they will receive penalties typically imposed for a second DUI conviction.)
What is the Penalty for a Second DUI in Alaska?
A second DUI conviction in Alaska within 15 years of a previous one is a Class A misdemeanor that comes with the following consequences:
- At least 20 days of imprisonment
- A fine of at least $3,000
- Ignition interlock device (IID) for at least 12 months
- Driver's license revocation for at least one year
What Happens After a Third DUI in Alaska?
A third or subsequent DUI offense in Alaska can be prosecuted as a felony or misdemeanor, depending on how far apart the third or subsequent offense is from the previous convictions.
Third or subsequent DUI (misdemeanor)
Anyone who receives a DUI conviction for the third time within 15 years of a previous one is guilty of a misdemeanor and will face the following legal repercussions:
- Imprisonment for at least 60 days
- A fine of at least $4,000
- Ignition interlock device (IID) for at least 18 months
- Revocation of driving privileges or driver's license for at least three years
Also, Alaska penalizes people found guilty of more than three DUI offenses. According to state law, a fourth DUI conviction within 15 years will result in:
- Imprisonment for at least 120 days.
- A fine of at least $5,000.
- Ignition interlock device (IID) for at least 24 months.
- Revocation of driving privileges or driver's license for at least five years.
A fifth DUI conviction within 15 years will lead to:
- Imprisonment for at least 240 days.
- A fine of at least $6,000.
- Ignition interlock device (IID) for at least 30 months.
- Revocation of driving privileges or driver's license for at least five years.
Finally, a sixth or subsequent DUI within 15 years will result in:
- Imprisonment for at least 360 days.
- A fine of at least $7,000.
- Ignition interlock device (IID) for at least 36 months.
- Revocation of driving privileges or driver's license for at least 5 years.
Third or subsequent DUI (felony)
The penalty for a third or subsequent DUI offense will be upgraded to that fitting of a Class C felony if an individual receives a new DUI conviction within ten years of two or more previous ones. Anyone found guilty of a felony DUI in Alaska will incur the following penalties instead:
- A fine of at least $10,000
- Ignition interlock device (IID) for at least 60 months
- Imprisonment for the following terms:
- At least 120 days if the offender has two previous convictions (the third offense).
- At least 240 days if the offender has three previous convictions (the fourth offense).
- At least 360 days if the offender has four or more previous convictions (the fifth or subsequent offense).
- Permanent revocation of the offender's driving privilege or driver's license. (However, for a third or fourth felony DUI, it may be possible to restore one's driving privileges after spending ten years with a clean record.)
- Forfeiture of the motor vehicle, aircraft, watercraft used to commit the offense
- Revocation of the registration for any vehicle in the offender's name
- Permanent disqualification from operating a commercial vehicle (if the offender is a commercial driver)
- Drug and alcohol evaluation and treatment
For a felony DUI, the court may also order the offender to take prescription drugs to prevent alcohol consumption while incarcerated or as a condition of parole or probation.
How Long Does a DUI Stay on Your Record in Alaska?
DUI convictions stay on a person's driving record for life in Alaska. There is no way to erase or hide such convictions in the state.
DUI Expungement in Alaska
An expungement refers to a judicial process that limits or removes public access to a person's criminal record. By deleting a record, no one should find it on government databases or request it from the courts. This advantage is often provided to first-time offenders to give them a fresh start.
Unfortunately, Alaska does not have any expungement provisions for DUI convictions (including convictions for refusals to submit to a chemical test to check one's blood alcohol content).
How Likely is Jail Time After a First DUI in Alaska?
An individual will likely be sentenced to jail for a first DUI in Alaska. This imprisonment period is imposed regardless of the offender's age as Alaska is a zero-tolerance state.
According to AS 28.35.030, the courts can sentence a person to at least 72 hours (3 days) of jail time for a first DUI offense.
What is the Average Cost of DUI in Alaska?
DUIs are very expensive. Even when an individual is acquitted of the charges, the person will still incur costs from the courts, attorneys, and Division of Motor Vehicles. Not to mention the possible increments in car insurance rates and subsequent transportation costs (if a person's driving privileges are revoked).
The Division of Motor Vehicle estimates the average cost of a first DUI in Alaska to be $24,265, minus:
- Private attorney costs
- Costs arising from the loss of one's vehicle or driving privileges (e.g., towing fees)
- Costs arising from the loss of one's job
- Monetary damages resulting from the offense
- Non-monetary costs such as embarrassment, pain, and suffering, etc.
Included in the estimation for a first DUI is the cost of:
- Court fines ($1,500)
- Court proceedings (at least $3,500)
- Vehicle impound fee (at least $600)
- License reinstatement ($200 to $250)
- Imprisonment ($330 for three days in jail)
- SR-22 insurance ($2,000 per year for five years)
- Sentencing (at least $250)
- Court-appointed attorney ($200)
- 12-month ignition interlock (at least $1,300), etc.
From the above calculations, it can be deduced that subsequent DUI offenses run into several thousands of dollars in costs.
How Much is Bail for a DUI in Alaska?
When stopped for drunk or impaired driving, an individual can be arrested and booked in jail. Sometimes, the individual may need to post bail at the police station or courthouse to gain freedom. The arrested person can also be released on personal recognizance (by promising to appear for the upcoming court hearing). In some instances, the court may hold the offender without bail - usually, when there were fatalities or severe injuries, or the offender has numerous DUIs.
In Alaska, most DUI offenders are not asked to post bail.
How to Get My License Back After a DUI in Alaska?
A first or subsequent DUI or refusal to submit to a blood-alcohol test can result in the revocation of a person's driver's license. The Division of Motor Vehicle will revoke a license as follows:
- Ninety days for a first DUI offense.
- One year for persons with a previous DUI conviction or refusal
- Three years for persons with two previous DUI convictions or refusals
- Five years for persons with three or more DUI convictions or refusals
- A year or life for commercial drivers, depending on the offense's severity.
Anyone whose license was revoked by the courts or Division of Motor Vehicle for a DUI can apply to reinstate the license at their local DMV office. This entails applying for a new license and completing these steps:
- Pass the vision and written tests (a road test may also be required).
- Pay the license and reinstatement fees. (For instance, one DUI/refusal conviction costs $200 in reinstatement fees.)
- Provide evidence of SR-22 insurance.
- Provide proof of birth and identity documents.
- If underage (below 18), provide parental consent via a form or have a parent or guardian sign the consent form at a local DMV.
- If convicted, provide proof of an ignition interlock installation and evidence that the applicant completed a treatment program approved by the Alcohol Safety Action Program (ASAP).
Ultimately, offenders must contact their local DMVs to find out if there are any additional requirements for getting back their licenses. An individual can also write to or call the head office using the following contact information:
State of Alaska
Division of Motor Vehicles
ATTN: DUI / REFUSAL
1300 West Benson, Suite 100
Anchorage, AK 99503-3689
Phone: (907) 269-5551
How Does a DUI Affect Your Life in Alaska?
Ordinarily, a DUI conviction in Alaska has both legal and financial consequences to an individual. However, because the conviction will stay on someone's criminal record forever, it can also affect other areas of the offender's life. For example:
- It may be hard to find employment.
- Car insurance rates may increase.
- The conviction can tarnish a person's career or chances of gaining entry into a university or college.
- The conviction can limit travel or immigration opportunities to Canada, Mexico, and other foreign countries.
- Friends, neighbors, colleagues, and other people can easily find the DUI arrest and conviction records, leading to embarrassment and feelings of guilt.
- It may be hard to obtain a professional license.
Can You Get Fired for a DUI in Alaska?
Yes, a person can get fired for a DUI in Alaska. Alaska has no provisions that forbid employers from making employment decisions based on a person's criminal record. Therefore, employers in the state can terminate a person's employment or reject their job application upon finding that such a person has a DUI conviction.
Typically, an individual may get fired for a DUI in Alaska because of the nature of their job (e.g., automobile dealer, commercial truck driver, teacher, nurse, Lyft/Uber driver, pilot, etc.). Another reason could be that the DUI offense violated their employment contract or the individual purposefully failed to report the conviction to the company. (Some employers require their staff to disclose a criminal conviction as soon as it happens. As such, hiding the DUI conviction can form a basis for the termination or non-renewal of one's employment contract.)
Offenders may be demoted, suspended, or asked to partake in a rehabilitation program following their DUI conviction.
How Do I Find DUI Checkpoints in Alaska?
A DUI checkpoint (also called a sobriety checkpoint) is a type of roadblock set up on highways and roads to deter motorists from driving drunk and jeopardizing public safety. Of the 50 states in the country, 38 (plus the District of Columbia) set up DUI checkpoints in their jurisdictions. However, Alaska is not among such states, and DUI checkpoints are illegal per state law.
Which is Worse, DUI vs. DWI?
The answer depends on the U.S. jurisdiction where an impaired driving offense occurs. In states that recognize both DUI and DWI offenses, the penalties for a DWI (Driving While Intoxicated or Impaired) are usually more severe than those for a DUI (Driving Under the Influence).