The Alabama criminal justice system can be an extremely intimidating force, especially to those facing charges within it. While people often believe they have a good understanding of how the criminal justice system works, that understanding is sometimes based on misinformation gained from television shows or movies that don’t always portray the criminal justice system as accurately as possible. To help you understand the criminal process you or a loved one might be facing, we provide a brief overview of the Alabama criminal process below in order of the possible stages you or your loved one may have to face.
Arrest and Booking
The first phase of your involvement with the Alabama criminal justice system usually begins with arrest and booking based on preliminary charges. There is a great deal of detail involved in ensuring the legitimacy of this process, too much to be discussed here. However, sometimes a complaint from another person that you have done or attempted to do something is enough for you to be arrested and booked into a city or county jail. Your fingerprints and a mug shot are typically taken at this time.
An Alabama arraignment is your first court appearance after being charged with a crime. At an arraignment, you will be told what charges you are facing and you will find out what amount your bail has been set at if you are eligible for it. In cases where the charges include felony charges, you will be informed of your right to request a preliminary hearing.
Alabama felony charges allow a defendant to request a preliminary hearing during which the state will present evidence against the defendant and the judge will determine if such evidence establishes probable cause for you to be indicted on felony charges. A judge may also determine during this hearing that the charges against you should be reduced to misdemeanor charges depending on the circumstances.
Grand Jury Indictment
When someone faces Alabama felony charges and probable cause is established during a preliminary hearing, or in cases where a preliminary hearing has not been requested, a grand jury will be convened to determine whether or not there is sufficient evidence to indict you on the proposed charges against you. If a grand jury determines an indictment is proper, your case will be sent to an Alabama circuit court for further arraignment on the indictment.
Before an actual Alabama criminal trial, your Birmingham criminal defense attorney will work with prosecutors to determine whether or not a plea bargain could prevent the need for an actual trial. It is ultimately up to you whether or not you wish to accept a plea bargain if one is offered.
If your case goes to trial and a jury returns a guilty verdict, or if you enter into a plea bargain related to the charges against you, a date will be set on which a judge will issue the sentence they have determined is appropriate in your circumstances. Sentencing can include jail time, fines, probation, or a combination of these and other consequences within Alabama’s general criminal sentencing guidelines. In some cases, a judge may consider specific circumstances related to the crime you have been convicted to either increase or decrease your sentence.
If you are facing an Alabama felony conviction, or an Alabama misdemeanor conviction, you have the opportunity to appeal a verdict and the related sentence. The time frame in which you must appeal the conviction depends on the type of crime you were convicted of, and your Birmingham criminal defense lawyer can help you understand more about this process.
Alabama Felony and Misdemeanor Criminal Defense Attorney
The stakes are extremely high with any Alabama criminal charge, whether it is a misdemeanor or a more serious felony offense. It is important to begin working with an experienced Alabama criminal attorney as soon as possible to ensure your rights are protected throughout the Alabama criminal defense process.