Being arrested and charged with a crime is something to be taken seriously.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re accused of a felony offense or a traffic-related misdemeanor.
Any criminal conviction can affect your life for years to come.
If you are facing any criminal charges, you need a skilled criminal defense attorney in Birmingham to prepare a defense for you.
At Dagney Johnson Law Group, we have years of experience representing Alabama clients for all their criminal legal needs.
Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation.
Overview of Criminal Defense Law
Criminal law matters are divided into two main types—federal and state. A federal charge is one brought by the federal government. It may involve health care fraud, cybercrime, stock market fraud, etc.
Most other offenses are prosecuted by the State of Alabama, including burglary, DUIs, domestic violence, and more.
When you’re arrested, you may be eligible for bail or the judge may keep you in jail pending trial. You have pre-trial hearings you’ll need to attend. Each one is potentially an opportunity to resolve your case—or have the charges reduced—provided you have a skilled defense attorney representing you.
Depending on the circumstances of your case, your trial will be held in one of these different courts:
- Municipal Court—City ordinance violations, non-jury trials, offenses involving a small fine;
- Circuit Court—Felony cases and appeals for jury trials from municipal courts;
- Federal Court—Felony District Court for interstate crimes; or
- Federal Magistrate Court—Crimes committed on federal lands and Native American lands.
The criminal process varies depending on whether your case is a felony or a misdemeanor. It also matters whether it’s tried in a federal or a state court. Your attorney can explain the venue where your case is being heard and how the process there will work.
Alabama Crime Classifications
Like other states, Alabama criminal laws classify crimes into two main categories—felonies and misdemeanors.
At Dagney Johnson Law Group, our legal team has represented Birmingham-area clients for many criminal offenses, including, but not limited to:
- Drug possession,
- Drug trafficking and distribution,
- Traffic violations,
- Firearms offenses,
- Burglary or Robbery,
- Identity theft,
- Computer-related crimes,
- Manslaughter or murder,
- Criminal appeals,
- Parole violations, and
- Federal crimes.
Some of these crimes may have both misdemeanor and felony statutes. They also have degrees, which can mean the difference between a misdemeanor or a felony charge. This also means that with the right attorney, you may be able to have a non-violent felony reduced to a misdemeanor charge.
Penalties for Common Crimes
Penalties for an Alabama criminal conviction correspond with the severity of the crime. The three main classifications are violations, misdemeanors, and felonies. Depending on the crime and its classification, you may be facing jail or prison time plus hefty fines.
Some crimes, like a DUI, require rehabilitation programs. You may lose your driver license, and/or be subject to probation or parole.
The penalties will vary based on your individual circumstances and the classification of the offense.
Violations are the least serious criminal offenses. You’re looking at a maximum of 30 days in county jail and a fine of no more than $200. Offenses that might fall under a violation include things like minor traffic offenses, loitering, and public intoxication.
Misdemeanors have three classes, A, B, and C. Class C misdemeanors are the least serious. These carry a maximum of three months in jail and a fine of $500. Examples include open container, disorderly conduct, and public lewdness.
Class B misdemeanors include a jail sentence of up to six months and fines not to exceed $3,000. A Class B misdemeanor might be resisting arrest, unlawful assembly, or an open house party.
A Class A misdemeanor conviction could result in up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $6,000. Examples include possession of drug paraphernalia, assault in the third degree, indecent exposure, and reckless endangerment.
Felonies are the most serious of Alabama’s criminal offenses and include prison time. The statutes categorize felonies into four main classifications—A, B, C, and D.
Class D felonies are relatively new in Alabama criminal sentencing. They are the least serious crimes, but they still qualify as a felony. They may involve crimes like third-degree theft of property and third-degree receipt of stolen property.
If you are facing conviction for a Class C felony, it may be for a crime like stalking, criminally negligent homicide, or a 4th DUI. Prison sentences can range from one year and a day up to ten years. Fines are capped at $15,000.
Class B felonies come with a minimum of two years and a maximum of 20 years in prison. You may also be ordered to pay hefty fines up to $30,000. Examples of Class B felonies include rape in the second degree, burglary in the second degree, and manslaughter.
The most serious felony offenses fall under Class A. If you’re convicted of a Class A felony, it’s a minimum of ten years in prison. Fines can be up to $60,000. These felonies involve violent crimes like murder, rape in the first degree, arson in the first degree, and kidnapping in the first degree.
Capital Punishment in Alabama
Alabama still allows for capital punishment and the death penalty. Murder is now the only capital crime on the books. The Alabama statute defines the circumstances under which a murder will qualify as a capital offense.
A few of these include:
- Murder during a kidnapping in the first degree;
- Murder during a rape in the first or second degree;
- Murder committed by the use of a deadly weapon while the victim was inside a vehicle;
- Murder during arson in the first or second degree;
- Murder of a victim who was less than 14 years of age;
- Murder committed while the defendant was already serving a life sentence; and
- Murder during a robbery in the first or second degree.
Alabama’s death penalty statute continues to be contested, and there have been some attempts at reform in recent years. Alabama was the last state to pass a law that abolishes judicial override in death penalty cases. A judge can no longer override a jury’s verdict of life imprisonment to impose the death penalty. However, executions are still occurring in Alabama.
If your case potentially involves capital punishment, you must retain a skilled criminal attorney in Birmingham right away. You need someone who is aggressive and has experience handling death penalty cases.
Why You Should Hire a Criminal Defense Lawyer
Every crime has consequences if you are ultimately convicted. Having an experienced Birmingham criminal defense lawyer representing you can change the entire outcome. It could mean the difference between jail and prison, or no incarceration at all in some scenarios.
When you represent yourself, or you’re assigned an inexperienced public defender, the prosecution may look for ways to exploit these weaknesses. Prosecutors know you don’t understand plea bargains. They may take advantage of that to get you to accept an unfair deal. They will use scare tactics to push you into an agreement to keep from trying the case. An excellent criminal defense attorney will fight for your rights and to prevent you from being blindsided by aggressive criminal prosecutors.
If you are facing possible life imprisonment or a death penalty sentence, it’s crucial that you hire the right attorney. Public defenders are almost always overloaded with too many case files. You cannot risk having a public defender who doesn’t have the time needed to prepare a strong defense. Also, you want an attorney who’s quick to raise objections and preserve possible grounds for appeal in the event of a conviction.
Contact an Alabama Criminal Defense Attorney Today
With any legal matter, acting quickly is important. The sooner you hire our criminal lawyers in Birmingham, the sooner we can start working on your case. Don’t leave your case to chance. Let an experienced lawyer help protect your rights and work to prepare the strongest defense possible.
Contact Dagney Johnson Law Group today to schedule an initial consultation.