Alabama Sentencing Guidelines

by ParkmanLaw on July 12, 2013

  • Sharebar

For many years, criminal attorneys studied Alabama’s habitual offender laws to determine what their client would face in the event they were convicted of a felony crime.  This habitual offender law was a sort of “three strikes your out” law, providing increasingly harsh punishment for multiple felonies, making a felony that was once punishable by a year and a day in jail, punishable by fifteen years to life if the offender has three prior felony convictions.

However, in 2006, criminal lawyers were introduced to Alabama’s criminal sentencing guidelines as a voluntary alternative to the habitual offender act.  These guidelines were intended to provide more truth in criminal sentencing, and to help alleviate the prison overcrowding situation in Alabama by allowing less harsh sentencing for repeat offenders of non-violent crimes.  As they were voluntary, some Alabama judges considered them in sentencing a criminal defendant, while others did not.

Beginning October 1, 2013, these guidelines will shift from being “voluntary” to being “presumptive.”  Similar to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, Alabama’s Circuit Court Judges will now be required to consider the guidelines on non-violent offenders.  However, also like the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, judges will not be confined by Alabama’s new criminal sentencing guidelines.

They will be able to consider both “aggravating” and “mitigating” factors.  Aggravating factors are circumstances that will be argued by the District Attorneys as reasons the criminal defendant should be given a harsher punishment than provided by the guidelines.  An example of an aggravating factor would be if the crime were committed while the criminal defendant was on bond or probation for another charge.

Mitigating factors are circumstances criminal defense attorneys will provide to the Court as reasons for the Judge to give a more lenient punishment than that provided by the sentencing guidelines.  An example of a mitigating factor would be the advanced age or deteriorating health of the criminal defendant.

Criminal attorneys, if they haven’t already, should begin studying the guidelines and their interplay with Alabama’s habitual offender act.  They should also begin documenting potential mitigating factors for their clients in the event they are ultimately convicted, so as to be able to argue for a more lenient sentence.  While Alabama’s criminal sentencing guidelines have not been utilized in every courtroom in the past, they will now be standard operating procedure beginning October 1, 2013.

No related posts.

Previous post:

Next post: