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Criminal Defense
Sentencing guidelines Alabama

Every state has its own set of laws that define what acts and omissions constitute criminal offenses, and Alabama is no different.

This is done via a number of statutes that are consolidated into Title 13A of the Alabama Code, often referred to simply as the Criminal Code. The Criminal Code defines the crimes and lays out the potential punishments for each offense.

Whether you’re charged with a felony, misdemeanor, or a violation, it is always a good idea to talk to a lawyer.

Crime Classification: The Three Categories

Alabama’s criminal code categorizes illegal behavior into three different categories by severity of both action and possible punishment. The three categories ranked from least to most serious are: violations, misdemeanors, and felonies.

Violations in Alabama

Violations are the least severe of the three criminal classifications in Alabama. Any potential jail sentences are limited to a maximum of 30 days in county jail, as opposed to state prison. Examples of violations include such things as traffic tickets. Usually someone charged with a violation receives a fine of under $200.00. 

When it comes to violations, most people assume it is easier to plead guilty to a violation charge and then just pay the fine. But be careful. If it’s a traffic ticket, a guilty plea goes against your driving record.

Misdemeanor Offenses in Alabama

These are considered less serious than felonies, and thus are punished less severely. Misdemeanor charges are classified into three classes by severity. It is important to note that misdemeanors have an AND/OR distinction when it comes to punishment. That means a conviction could carry prison time, a fine, or both.

  • Class A – Examples of Class A misdemeanors include possession of marijuana for personal use and theft of goods under $500. Punishment range is up one year in prison and/or $6,000 fines.
  • Class B –  Examples include resisting arrest and tampering with witnesses. The punishment range for this class is up to six months in prison and/or $3,000 in fines.
  • Class C – The punishment range for this class is up to three months in prison and/or $500 in fines. Common Class C misdemeanors include trespassing, harassment, and disorderly conduct. 

When you’re convicted of a misdemeanor in Alabama, there are some circumstances where you may be able to avoid prison time. You may be eligible for a community corrections program or for drug court.

In addition, if you have no other criminal history (especially a violent criminal history) a judge may suspend part of your sentence and place you on probation, as long as you obey certain guidelines. 

Felony Offenses in Alabama

The most serious type of crime in Alabama is a felony. Felonies are crimes that can potentially carry a sentence of more than a year in state prison or death.

There are four different classes of felonies, from the most serious Class A offenses to the least serious Class D offenses. Class D is a new felony class that went into effect on January 30, 2016.

  • Class A – The most serious level of crime in the state, punishable by life in prison or a term of 10 to 99 years. Examples of Class A felonies include first-degree rape (sex by force, with an incapacitated victim, or a child under age 12), first-degree domestic violence, and of course, murder. There are 19 situatuations where a convicted murder may receive the death penalty, also known as capital punishment.
  • Class B – Statutory sentencing guidelines range from two to 20 years in prison. Examples include first-degree manslaughter, first-degree assault, and second-degree (statutory) rape. 
  • Class C – The standard sentence for a Class C felony is a term between 366 days and 10 years. They include: breaking and entering, robbery with actual or threatened force, and child custody interference.
  • Class D – This felony can carry a sentence of 366 days to five years in prison. Credit card fraud and possession of a controlled substance are a few that fall into this new category. 

Where the convicted person’s sentence falls in the statutory range depends on the circumstances surrounding the offense and the perpetrator’s criminal history. To help ensure fair and effective sentencing, the state established the Alabama Sentencing Commission in 2000.

A felony can also have fines attached. The Criminal Code’s guidelines are: 

  1. For a Class A felony, not more than $60,000;
  2. For a Class B felony, not more than $30,000;
  3. For a Class C felony, not more than $15,000;
  4. For a Class D felony, not more than $7,500

Talk to a Birmingham Attorney About Your Legal Issue Today

Have you been arrested for or charged with a crime in Alabama? The consequences of a conviction could be severe and change your life forever. That is why you need to speak with a qualified criminal defense attorney as soon as possible about your case.

At Dagney Johnson Law Group, we are a small family firm that has represented Alabamians for over 40 years. Located in Birmingham, we want our clients to feel comfortable and cared for throughout the legal process.

Give us a call at (205) 937-6564, or submit our contact form to set up a consultation. 

Author Photo

Dagney Johnson

Dagney Johnson is a lawyer who represents clients in family, criminal defense, and personal injury matters in Alabama. Dagney holds a J.D. from Birmingham School of Law and was admitted to practice law in 2003.

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