TALLADEGA -- A Talladega man charged with felony driving under the influence earlier this week appears to have more than a dozen DUI convictions on his record from several different counties dating back to the late 1990s.
Lance Gay Luker, 56, was initially arrested July 11, according to Talladega County Metro Jail records. The charge against him was increased to felony DUI on Aug. 6, and bond was set at $25,000. He posted bond and was released the same day, Aug. 6, according to jail records.
According to Talladega police Capt. John McCoy, police first came into contact with Luker when responding to a domestic violence call at a residence on North Court Street. Officers found Luker inside his blue 2005 Ford Explorer outside the residence, smelling strongly of alcohol.
When tested, McCoy said Luker blew a 0.16 blood alcohol level, or twice the legal limit. He was arrested on a charge of DUI then, and, according to jail records, was also charged with violating a protection from abuse warrant.
McCoy said Luker was charged under a recent change made to Alabama’s felony DUI statute that says anyone who has previously been convicted of felony DUI can be charged with another felony if they are driving over the legal limit.
According to court records, Luker had his first DUI in 1998 and his most recent last year. At least four of those convictions appear to be felonies.
CHANGES IN THE LAW
Alabama law provides escalating penalties for first, second and third misdemeanor DUI offenses. The fourth offense is generally a felony, but parts of the law have changed over the years, and things can get complicated.
In 2006, the state Legislature amended the DUI statute so that convictions from other states could be counted toward the three priors necessary for a felony charge. The same bill also said that old cases could only be counted going back five years. A similar “look back” period had been included in earlier versions of the law, but this had been repealed by an act passed in 1997. The 2006 act repealed the 1997 act, according to a legislative history of the state’s DUI laws.
A state Supreme Court case decided in 2008 further muddied the waters, saying that misdemeanor DUI convictions in municipal court before 2006 could not be counted toward the three priors necessary for a felony charge.
Yet another legislative act, this one passed last year, provides for a 10-year “look back” period.
Most felonies in Alabama can have the minimum sentences increased if the person has prior felony convictions. This does not apply in felony DUI cases, however.
“The Alabama habitual felony offender law shall not apply to a conviction of a felony pursuant to this subsection, and a conviction of a felony pursuant to this subsection shall not be a felony conviction for purposes of the enhancement of punishment pursuant to the Alabama habitual felony law,” Alabama statute says.
Previous DUI convictions can be considered by the judge at sentencing, however.
Felony DUI is a class C felony in Alabama, punishable upon conviction by one year and one day to 10 years in prison, and fines of $4,100 to $10,100.
A person convicted of felony DUI must serve a minimum of 10 days in jail, which cannot be suspended or probated, according to the law. The remainder of the sentence can only be suspended or probated if the defendant completes a chemical dependency program. They will also lose their driver’s license for a period of five years and have an ignition interlock device put on their vehicle for four years.