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Cherokee County’s New Sewage Regulations

May 08

Recently, the Cherokee County Commission passed certain sewage ordinances for areas within the Alabama Power Flood easement around Weiss Lake due to take effect July 9, 2012. These laws not only provide guidelines for sewage disposal, but also give the Cherokee County Health Department the ability to create rules and regulations regarding sewage disposal inside the flood easement. 

The Health Department’s “Sewage Regulations” are set to take effect July 9, 2012 and mainly focus on “holding tank” regulations as well as hook-up requirements to “sanitary sewage systems” within the Weiss Lake flood easement.

A “holding tank” is defined as “a water-tight receptacle for the collection and temporary retention of sewage . . . designed and constructed to facilitate removal and ultimate disposal at another site.”  “Holding tanks” do not include sewage collection tanks on board a recreational vehicle or travel trailer. A “sanitary sewer system” is defined as a properly permitted public or private sewer system, including “decentralized” systems like a cluster wastewater system or community wastewater system.

According to these rules, anyone wanting to use a holding tank for sewage disposal must first obtain a permit from the Cherokee County Health Department. Application for such a permit is made by submitting an application form provided by the Health Department. Holding tanks will not be permitted, however, if there is an available connection to a sanitary sewer system, or if a sanitary sewer system becomes available. In other words, once an approved sanitary sewage system becomes available, you must hook onto it.

A permit for an existing or new temporary holding tank requires you to be contracted with a licensed sewage pumper for periodic pumping. Reports of holding tank pumping must be submitted to the Health Department as specified in the holding tank permit or as otherwise required by the Health Department.

Although you can get a permit for holding tanks installed and used prior to July 9, 2012, you must prove to the Health Department that the holding tank was intended by the manufacturer to be used for sewage storage or that the existing holding tank has been inspected and certified in writing to be structurally sound and suitable for sewage storage by a professional Alabama licensed engineer. Holding tanks installed on or after July 9, 2012 must also be certified and have a minimum capacity of 1,000 gallons per day or be 25% larger than the projected sewage flow accumulation between scheduled pumping, whichever is larger.

The amount of the fee for a holding tank permit shall be designated in accordance with Alabama law, but shall not exceed $150.00 unless approved by the Cherokee County Commission.

What is a Grand Jury?

Apr 25

Clients and people in the community will often ask me to explain the difference between and “grand jury” and a “regular jury.” Many people (like myself, before I became a lawyer) have no idea what the purpose is behind a “grand jury.” In the United States, the grand jury was formally established through the creation of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. At its roots, the grand jury is supposed to function like a group of “neighbors” to help the state and society by bringing criminals to justice, while at the same time, protecting the innocent from unjust accusations. 

In the federal system, the grand jury decides whether someone should be formally charged (or “indicted”) for a serious crime. The grand jury may only evaluate evidence presented by the prosecutor—a specialized attorney of the United States government. Most states, like Alabama, use the same federal grand jury system to indict, or being formal charges against criminal defendants. 

A grand jury is a group of citizens, typically chosen from the same pool as trial jurors. Members of a grand jury are sworn by a court to hear evidence presented by the prosecutor regarding a case. A grand jury is always composed of no less than 12 and no more than 23 people; in a federal court, the number is no less than 16 and no more than 23. 

Unlike a trial jury — which determines whether a criminal defendant is innocent or guilty by unanimous vote — a grand jury can indict a defendant with a majority vote. Again, only the trial jury will decide whether a defendant is guilty or not guilty of the crime in question; however, a grand jury will listen to evidence and decide if a suspect should be charged with a crime. As a result, the grand jury is only responsible for determining whether the State has probable cause to bring a charge against a person. 

Because the grand jury’s primary responsibility is to determine probable cause, it will not hear all the evidence or conflicting arguments associated with the case. The information provided to the grand jury is delivered by the prosecutor. In fact, the suspect’s lawyer is not allowed to be present during presentation to the grand jury, and is not really even allowed to know when the grand jury convenes. Although suspects themselves can testify in front of the grand jury, the State is under no obligation to notify the suspect that his case is being presented.

A grand jury will use the power of the court system to command (through the issuance of a subpoena) the delivery of evidence. Further, the grand jury may invite witnesses to provide testimony, although this rarely happens. There is no judge present during grand jury proceedings during the exchange of evidence and information. In fact, the entire grand jury proceedings are overseen by the prosecution. Once the grand jury has made their decision, they will either issue a “true bill,” meaning that the state had probable cause to charge the suspect, or a “no bill” which in effect dismisses the action for lack of probable cause.

Scams to watch out for

Apr 04

People often come into the office with notices regarding lotteries they have won, or money that is reportedly being held for them from an unknown rich deceased relative’s estate. Much to their disappointment, these people find out that these are scams. This week and next, I will list some of the more common scams to watch out for, all of which are geared to either steal your money or identity.

Sweepstakes, lottery, and “money holding” scams. These scams come in all shapes and sizes, but the bottom line is almost always this: You’ve won, inherited, or are being asked to hold a whole lot of money, but in order to claim it you have to send a smaller amount of money back to the people from which you received the notice. These kinds of scams often use foreign royalty, celebrities or other famous names to make their offer seem more genuine. If it’s a sweepstakes or lottery notice, and you aren’t sure, don’t click on the link but instead go directly to the homepage of the company mentioned. If they are really giving away $1 million, there will be some kind of announcement on their website. If the notice is from a person from another country asking you to hold money for them, just ignore it.

The “secret shopper” scam. There are a lot of “secret shopper” scams, work-from-home scams, and other phony job offers out there.  Emails, websites and online applications all look very professional, and the candidate is even interviewed for the job (usually over the phone) and then receives an offer. In order to start the job, however, the candidate has to fill out a “credit report” or provide bank information for direct deposit of their “paychecks.” These forms are nothing more than a way to capture sensitive personal data – Social Security number, bank accounts, etc. – that can easily be used for identity theft. And, of course, there is no job.

Check cashing scams. Legitimate companies like Craig’s List and Western Union are used for an inordinate amount of scamming these days — especially check cashing scams. Here’s how it works: Someone contacts you via a Craig’s List posting, maybe for a legitimate reason like buying your old couch or perhaps through a scam like hiring you as a secret shopper. Either way, they send you a check for more than the amount they owe you, and they ask you to deposit it into your bank account and then send them the difference via Western Union. A deposited check takes a couple of days to clear, whereas wired money is gone instantly. When the original check bounces, you are out whatever money you wired…and you’re still stuck with the old couch.

“Debt relief service” scams. In challenging economic times, many people are looking for help getting out of debt or staying out of foreclosure. Unfortunately, almost as many scammers appear to take advantage of these desperate situations. Because the federal government announced or expanded several mortgage relief programs recently, all kinds of sound-alike websites have popped up to try to fool consumers into parting with their money. Some sound like a government agency, or even part of the Better Business Bureau or other nonprofit consumer organization. Most ask for an upfront fee to help you deal with your mortgage company or the government (services you could easily do yourself for free), and almost all leave you in more debt than when you started.

“Phone cramming.” This is a relatively new scam that has arisen out of the nation’s expanding use of texting. The phone cramming scammer sends a strange, sometimes nonsensical, text through an undisclosed number. A second text then arrives with instruction that if you would like for these type texts to stop, all you have to do is reply “STOP.” What you are really doing when you reply is authorizing bogus charges on your phone bill that go straight to the scam artist. If you receive a strange text from an undisclosed number, or someone you don’t know, and the ask you to reply — don’t.

Last week we discussed several scams to be wary of. Here are a few more internet based scams to look out for.

 “I need your sensitive information” scams. There are a million ways to steal someone’s identity. Usually, someone will call or email you saying there is some huge mix-up that requires you to immediately give out some sort of sensitive, personal information. Many times these scammers represent to be your bank. A new variation of this scam has become so prevalent that many hotels are posting warnings in their lobby. Here’s how it works: You get a call in your hotel room in the middle of the night. It’s the front desk clerk, very apologetic, saying their computer has crashed and they need to get your credit card number again, or they must have gotten the number wrong because the transaction won’t go through, and could you please read the number back so they can fix the problem? Scammers are counting on you being too sleepy to catch on that the call isn’t from the hotel at all, but from someone outside who knows the direct-dial numbers for the guest rooms. By the time morning rolls around and you are clear-headed, your credit card has been on a major shopping spree. Bottom line – never give out information about yourself unless you are absolutely sure who you are giving it to.

Social network scams. On the Internet, it’s easy to pretend to be someone you are not. Most likely we are not really friends with all 897 of our “friends” on Facebook. With so much information about us online, a scammer can sound like they know you. The most recent version of this scam appeals to our natural curiosity by appearing to be a message from a friend. Viral videos claiming to show everything from footage of Osama bin Laden’s death to the latest celebrity hijinks to even videos of you doing unspeakable things have shown up on social media sites often looking as if they have been shared by a friend. When you click on the link, you are prompted to “upgrade your Flash player,” but the file you end up downloading contains a worm that logs into your social media account, sends similar messages to your friends, and searches for your personal data. The next time you see a sensational headline for the latest viral video, resist the urge to open it.

Penny auction scams. Sales scams are as old as humanity, but the Internet has introduced a whole new way to rip people off. Penny auctions are very popular because it seems like you can get something useful – cameras, computers, etc. – for way below retail. But you pay a small fee for each bid (usually .50 to $1.00) and if you aren’t the winner, you lose that bid money. Winners often are not even the top bidder, just the last bidder when time runs out. Although not all penny auction sites are scams, some are being investigated as online gambling. If you engage in penny auctions, treat them the same way you would legal gambling in a casino – know exactly how the bidding works, set a limit for yourself, and be prepared to walk away before you go over that limit.

“Phishing” scams. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of people have gotten emails that very much look like an official notice from a legitimate business like the Better Business Bureau. The subject line says something like “Complaint Against Your Business,” and the instructions tell you to either click on a link or open an attachment to get the details. If you do either, a malicious virus is launched on your computer that can steal banking information, passwords and other critical pieces of information needed for cyber-theft. Anyone who has opened such an attachment should run a complete system scan using reputable anti-virus software. If your computer is networked with others, all machines on the network should be scanned, as well.

Proposed Sewage Disposal Ordinance

Mar 21

The Cherokee County Commission is reviewing and potentially voting on a sewage disposal ordinance today that would affect those who own property on and around Weiss Lake. Following is a summary of what the new ordinance proposes.

The purpose of the ordinance is to “protect the public’s health by protecting the water quality of Weiss Lake, the primary water source for citizen’s of Cherokee County and to minimize the adverse health effects of the improper illegal disposal of sewage.” In order to protect the public’s interest, the ordinance proposes to “adopt and implement rules and regulations regarding the abatement of improper or illegal disposal of sewage in the Alabama Power flood easements around Weiss Lake.”

The ordinance establishes that treating or disposing of sewage by a means that is not approved of [permitted by the Cherokee County Health Department is a “public nuisance.” The ordinance basically sets up an alliance between the County Commission and the County Health Department, where the Health department will designate one or more employees as “Enforcement Officers.” These enforcements officers will have the authority to patrol the Alabama Power flood easement in an effort to identify “noncompliant properties.” Citizens can also make reports regarding noncompliant properties to the enforcement officer(s).

The enforcement officer is allowed to enter onto any premises where sewage is generated or discharged as necessary to investigate potential violations of the ordinance or to issue notices and/or citations for any violations. If the officer determines that sewage if being treated or disposed in an unlawful manner, he or she is required to post notice of the alleged violation on the property and send notice via certified mail to the owner of the property.

The notice warns the owner that if the property is not brought into compliance or approved by the Health Department within 30 days, a citation will be issued. The notice also warns that the owner of the property “shall be subject to fines and to the administrative fees equal to any costs incurred by Cherokee County in the event the county takes action to abate the sewage nuisance.”

If the owner has not come into compliance within 30 days of the posting of the notice, the officer can issue a citation that will note the violation, the fine and costs, the time period and method of paying the fines and costs, and information regarding how the owner may appeal issuance of the citation to the Cherokee County Commission.

A fine of $150 for each day the violation continues will be assessed for anyone failing to comply with the citation; however the total fine cannot exceed $5,000.00. All fines and fees collected shall be applied to the administration o the ordinance. Additionally, the commission may assess administrative fees equal to the cost of abating the nuisance if the problem is not corrected by the owner.

If the owner comes into compliance within 30 days, he or she is not liable for any costs of fines; however, upon a second citation within 12 months, the owner shall not be granted the opportunity to avoid payment of the fines and administrative fees.

What are Mineral Rights?

Mar 07

A few years ago, it seems that I spent a great portion of my time reviewing oil and gas mineral rights leases. Many of you remember the recent mineral rights “boom” in this area, where oil and gas companies were frantically leasing up mineral rights. I don’t know what the current status of these companies are, or if they will ever begin drilling for oil or natural gas, but I have had several questions from people wanting to know a little more about what “mineral rights” are. The most recent question came last week from a reader who suggested I write a column about mineral rights.

In most countries of the world all mineral resources belong to the government. This includes all valuable rocks, minerals, oil or gas found on or within the Earth. Organizations or individuals in those countries cannot legally extract and sell any mineral without first obtaining authorization from the government. In the United States, however, ownership of mineral resources was originally granted to the individuals or organizations that owned the property. These property owners had both “surface rights” and “mineral rights.”

Complete ownership of property includes ownership of the surface rights and mineral rights. The owner also has the freedom to sell, lease, gift or bequest these rights individually or entirely to others. Before drilling and mining, real estate transactions included both mineral and surface rights. However, once commercial mineral production became possible, the ways in which people own property became more complex. Today, the leases, sales, gifts and bequests of the past have created situations where multiple people or companies have a partial ownership of rights to many real estate parcels.

Mineral rights in this area are leased by oil or gas companies more than they are outright transferred.  To entice the property owner to commit to a lease the lessee generally offers a “signing bonus.” This is an up-front payment to the owner for granting the lessee a right to explore the property for a limited period of time (usually a few months to a few years). If the lessee does not explore or explores and does not find marketable oil or gas then the lease expires and the lessee has no further rights. If the lessee finds oil or gas and begins production, a regular stream of royalty payments usually keeps the terms of the lease in force.

In addition to a signing bonus, most lease agreements require the lessee to pay the owner a share of the value of produced oil or gas. The customary royalty percentage is 12.5 percent or 1/8 of the value of the oil or gas at the wellhead. When oil or natural gas is produced the royalty payments can greatly exceed the amounts paid as a signing bonus

If you are considering a mineral rights transaction or have concerns about mineral extraction near your property it is essential to understand the agreement you are being asked to sign and the associated laws. If you do not fully understand the mineral rights transfer you should get advice from an attorney.

What is a “Guest Statute?”

Feb 22

A friend of mine called me one day last week and said that his daughter had been in an automobile accident. It seems that his daughter was riding as a passenger in a car with her friend. The driver lost control of the vehicle, running off the road and into a tree. My friend’s daughter suffered some severe injuries from the accident and the driver’s insurance company was giving him trouble about paying, even though the driver was clearly at fault. He asked me why the driver’s insurance company was reluctant to pay his daughter’s medical bills. The answer probably lies in Alabama’s “Guest Statute.”

A guest statute is law that makes it more difficult for a passenger in an automobile to recover damages from the driver for injuries received in an accident resulting from ordinary negligence on the part of the driver. Under the guest statute, passengers are generally limited to suits against drivers based on gross negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct. In other words, in an automobile accident case, the person who caused the accident is usually legally “negligent” and therefore responsible for the injured party’s damages. Under Alabama law, however, a passenger must prove the driver was not only negligent, but that he or she was grossly, or extremely, negligent or reckless in some way. Gross negligence is a much more difficult level of conduct to prove.

For example, a decision released recently by the Alabama Supreme Court, Phillips v. United Services Automobile Assoc., held there was no evidence of gross negligence in a single-vehicle accident where the driver took her eyes off the road in order to wave to friends in another vehicle, and then lost control, injuring a passenger. The driver may have been negligent, but not grossly negligent or reckless.

Arguably, the purpose of the guest statute is both to protect drivers from frivolous litigation and to protect insurance companies from collusive and fraudulent suits (where the passenger sues the driver in order to collect from the driver’s insurer). However, if my research is correct, all states in the United States have abolished their guest statute laws except for Alabama.

As with most other laws, there are some exceptions to Alabama’s guest statute law. For example, the Guest Statute does not apply to passengers who are on a business venture with the driver. Also, the Guest Statute does not apply to young children or incompetents due to their inability to consent to their status as a “guest” in the vehicle. Finally, the Guest Statute does not apply to guests who are paying their way or contributing to gas or maintenance of the vehicle.

Therefore, just because you or someone you know was a passenger in a vehicle and injured in an accident does not automatically mean that Alabama’s guest statute prevents recovery for damages. You should always, always speak with a lawyer when you have been in an accident. It is usually extremely important that a lawyer do a thorough investigation as quickly as possible after an accident in order to document and preserve information and evidence about the actions of the party at fault, especially when the guest statute law may apply.

The Different Grounds for Divorce

Feb 15

Recently, a potential client came into my office to talk about a potential divorce action. Among the different things we discussed were the various “grounds” for divorce under Alabama law. She eventually questioned if it really mattered why she wanted a divorce. Actually, it does.

Under Alabama, a court cannot grant you a divorce unless you have stated a proper “ground” or legal reason why you are wanting a divorce. The various grounds for divorce accepted by Alabama courts are located in Alabama Code Section 30-2-1. Most people know the more common grounds for divorce like adultery, incompatibility, and/or an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. However, under Alabama law there are several other grounds of which many people are not aware. Specifically, the circuit court has power to divorce persons from the bonds of matrimony, upon a complaint filed by one of the parties, for one or more of the following causes:

“When the other party was, at the time of the marriage physically and incurably incapacitated from entering into marriage.” The party claiming this ground must show that the other party was physically (usually mentally) unable to legally agree to get married in the first place. 

“Voluntary abandonment from bed and board for one year next preceding the filing of the complaint.” This is the divorce ground that most people are talking about when they claim their spouse has abandoned them. However, what most people don’t know is that in order to prove this ground, the claiming party has to show the abandonment has been for a full year before the filing of a divorce complaint.

“Imprisonment in the penitentiary of this or any other state for two years, the sentence being for seven years or longer.” This ground is pretty self-explanatory. The imprisonment must be for two actual years and the actual sentence must be for more than seven years.

“The commission of a crime against nature, whether with mankind or beast, either before or after marriage.” This one doesn’t get used a lot, but “crimes against nature with mankind” in Alabama means homosexuality. “Crimes against nature with a beast” means just what you think.

“For becoming addicted after marriage to habitual drunkenness or to habitual use of opium, morphine, cocaine or other like drug.” This ground covers all addiction to drugs and/or alcohol. I don’t know why the legislature specifically points out opium, morphine, and cocaine.

“When one party, after marriage, shall have been confined in a mental hospital for a period of five successive years, if such party from whom a divorce is sought is hopelessly and incurably insane at the time of the filing of the complaint.”

“In favor of the husband, when the wife was pregnant at the time of marriage, without his knowledge.”

“In favor of either party to the marriage when the other has committed actual violence on his or her person, attended with danger to life or health, or when from his or her conduct there is reasonable apprehension of such violence.” This ground covers instances of actual physical abuse.

What is a Subpoena?

Feb 08


Recently, I met someone in town who reads my article (to Scott Wright’s surprise, there is at least one). The gentleman told me he had recently been served with a subpoena to testify in court and asked if it were really mandatory that he appear. My answer was simply, “Yes.”

If you receive a subpoena from a process server, it is important that you know what this paper is and what it means to you. A subpoena is an order issued by the court requiring you to appear in person at a certain place, date and time to testify as a witness about a particular case. In a criminal case, you can be subpoenaed only to testify in court. In a civil case, you may be subpoenaed for out-of-court testimony as well. In either kind of case, a subpoena may require you to provide documents.

Subpoenas may be delivered in person by a deputy sheriff or by any other person at least 18 years old who is not a party to the lawsuit and is not an employee of, or attorney for, any party to the case. Read the subpoena carefully. The subpoena will tell you: the names of the parties; the date, time and place you will need to appear; the name of the lawyer who issued the subpoena; and the location and type of court in which the lawsuit is taking place. If the subpoena requires you to bring certain documents or other objects, they should be described in the subpoena or in a separate paper given to you along with the subpoena.

You may object in writing to any subpoena, listing all the reasons you think it is unfair or unjust for you to appear or to produce such documents or objects. Objections should be filed with the court immediately, not on the date you are required to appear or provide the documents. You may want to consult with a lawyer to make sure that your objections are filed correctly and on time.

If you do not appear as the subpoena orders, you may be found in contempt of court. Contempt of court may result in a fine or even a jail term. The court may also require you to pay compensation fees to the parties who may have been damaged by your failure to appear. The court may also issue a warrant for your arrest and ask the sheriff to take you into custody and bring you to the place at which your testimony is required.

If it is impossible or extremely difficult for you to appear at the time required by the subpoena, call the lawyer for the party who issued the subpoena. Usually, the lawyer’s name, address and phone number will appear on the subpoena. He or she might be able to postpone your testimony so you could testify at another time. You should keep in mind, however, that the lawyer may not be able to change the date and time of your requested appearance if a court date is already established and cannot be moved. If it is absolutely impossible for you to appear, or if it would be seriously harmful to your health or business, you should seek the advice of your own lawyer to decide if there may be legal grounds for you to be excused.

Where Can I put my Campaign Signs?

Feb 02

During election years, you can always expect to see hundreds of campaign signs placed on the side of the road. It seems that during these times, someone always asks me “isn’t there a law that says you can’t put campaign signs in the right-of way?” Actually, there is such a law, although it seems not often enforced in this area.

Under Alabama Code Section 23-1-6,  signs, markers and advertising on the rights-of-way of state controlled highways are prohibited except those official signs or markers placed in the right of way by the State Department of Transportation or under its authority. In other words, Alabama state law allows only authorized regulatory signs or signs that the Alabama Department of Transportation (DOT) gives special permission for to be placed in road’s right of way. Any object placed in the right of way that does not have special permission from the DOT is illegally placed. This includes political candidate signs as well as crosses at the scene of a fatal wreck, “For Sale” signs, signs informing others of yard sales, etc.

In fact, the DOT has procedures in place to remove obstructions or encroachments of this mature found in the right of way. If alerted to the problem, the DOT will either ask the sign owner to remove it or issue an “encroachment notice” to the owner. If the owner will not remove the obstruction, the DOT can choose to go through a legal process which includes warning letters from a DOT attorney, and in some cases, an actual court appearance and hearing. If a sign interferes with motorists’ sight distance or creates a safety hazard, however, the DOT has the option to simply remove the sign or obstruction immediately.

There are criminal penalties for those who place signs or other obstructions in the right of way, although I believe that this type of remedy is rarely used by the DOT. Alabama Code Section 23-1-288 notes that whoever erects or maintains a sign in violation of the provisions of this division or in violation of rules and regulations promulgated by the director under the provisions of this division shall be guilty of a class C misdemeanor and shall upon conviction be punished accordingly.

So, be careful where you place your campaign signs, making sure they are out of the right of way of any road or highway and do not obstruct a drivers’ view of the road. Otherwise, you may get a call from the DOT.

On a final note, I would like to announce the addition of Summer McWhorter to the law office.  Summer is a graduate of the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University and has been practicing here in Centre for several months. Summer is from Cedar Bluff originally and many of you know her parents Paul and Betty McWhorter. Before moving back home, she spent some time working with her cousin Bill McWhorter in Pell City, Alabama. She is also cousin to Bob McWhorter, who practiced in Centre for many years. I am very glad to have Summer join what I guess I can know call the “firm.”

Alabama’s “Graduated Driver License” Laws

Jan 22

I have recently been asked to summarize Alabama’s Graduated Driver License (GDL) laws which concern teen drivers. This Alabama law went into effect July 2010 and reorganized driver license laws for teen drivers. 

The GDL laws place a teens driving status into three “Stages,” each of which have different restrictions and meanings. These laws do not apply to teens 18 or older; teens who are 17 or older who have had a valid driver license for six months or longer; or teens who are 16 or older who are married and considered head of the household.   

A Stage I driver license is commonly known as a “Learner’s Permit.” Under Stage I, the potential teen driver must be 15 or older, and must pass a written driver’s examination based on information in the Alabama Driver Manual. This manual is available at the local Probate Office or for download at A Stage I license authorizes teens to drive when accompanied by a parent, legal guardian or licensed driver who is age 21 or older and occupying the front seat beside the licensee. Teens may also drive when accompanied by a licensed or certified driving instructor occupying the front seat beside the licensee. The Stage I exam fee is $5.00 and the license fee is $23.50. 

A Stage II driver license is a commonly called a “Restricted License.” To obtain a Stage II license, the teen must be 16 or older. The teen must also have permission from parent or legal guardian to receive a Stage II license and drive without supervision. Stage II applicants must complete a road skills examination with a passing grade, again based on the Alabama Driver Manual. Stage II drivers cannot drive during the hours of midnight to 6 a.m. unless: 1) accompanied by a parent or legal guardian; 2) accompanied by a licensed driver who is age 21 or older with the driver’s parent or legal guardian’s consent; 3) going to or from an event sponsored by school or a religious organization; 4) going to or from the driver’s place of employment or 5) driving for the purpose of a medical, fire or law-enforcement related emergency. A Stage II teen driver cannot have more than one passenger in the vehicle other than parents, legal guardians or family members and cannot use any handheld communication devices while driving. The Stage II license fee is $23.50.

 A Stage III license is an unrestricted or regular license. To obtain a Stage III license, the teen must be 17 or older and have a Stage II license for at least six months before applying for the Stage III license. Teens 18 and older may apply immediately for a Stage III license without having had a Stage II license as long as they pass the road skills examination. The Stage III license fee is $18.50 for those who present a Stage II license and receive a restriction-free duplicate. The fee is $23.50 for those who did not obtain a Stage II license prior to turning age 18.

Violations of any of the graduated driver license law restrictions will result in the restrictive period being extended by six months or until the licensee reaches age 18. Violations of the above conditions are considered traffic violations, but the licensees will not be subject to any criminal penalties or court costs. No citation will be issued unless the licensee is stopped for a separate violation of the law and issued a citation or warrant for the separate violation. No points will be assessed for violation of the above restrictions.

 If a licensee is convicted of a second moving traffic violation or is convicted of failure to give information, render aid, racing, fleeing or attempting to elude a law enforcement officer, reckless driving, illegal passing, driving on the wrong side of the road or any other offense where four or more points are assessed, his or her license will automatically be suspended for 60 days.

 Additionally, any child 12 years or older is subject to a “disciplinary point system” that may restrict a teen’s ability to obtain a driver license. Under this law, each student over the age of 12 who is enrolled in a public or private secondary school shall be subjected to a disciplinary point system to determine the age at which the student shall be allowed to apply for a driver license of any kind. Each point adds one week to the age at which the student is eligible to apply for a driver license, including a Stage I learner’s permit.

Under this point system, one day of in-school suspension is 1 point, one day out-of-school suspension is 2 points, alternative school placement is 6 points, and expulsion is 20 points. The points accumulate on a yearly basis, beginning with the school year in which the student turns 13, and accumulate each year until the student is eligible to apply for a driver license or learner’s permit.  

The age at which a student may apply for a license or permit, however, shall not be extended beyond one year from the date the student initially applies for a driver license or learner’s permit.
Further, points may not accrue for the first three days of in-school suspension in any school year; however, beginning with the fourth day of suspension in any school year, all days, including the first three, of in-school suspension shall be counted in determining the points. Points may not accrue for an initial out-of-school suspension of two days or less in any school year; however, the days of the initial suspension shall be used to determine the points after a second out-of-school suspension in any school year or all days will be used to determine points if the initial suspension exceeds 2 days. Finally, any accumulated points shall be reduced by one-half if the student has not received additional accumulated points for one school year. If no additional points are received for two years, all records of the accumulated points shall be removed from the student’s records at the school.