The United States an international reputation for jailing offenders for non-violent crimes and misdemeanors. According to recent report from the ACLU, Alabama ranks 3rd for the highest number of prisoners serving life sentences for non-violent crimes. This should put residents on notice: not only does Alabama penalize offenders more harshly for non-violent crimes, but you could face a life sentence.
When arrested for a non-violent crime such as drug possession, remember that your penalties could be severe and even result in a lifetime sentence. Our Birmingham drug defense attorneys are experienced in the investigation of criminal allegations to best protect our clients in the criminal process. Understanding the severity of the charges that you may face for a first, second, or third time conviction, we will explore all opportunities to protect your rights and mitigate penalties in your case.
In a report published this week, there are at least 3,278 prisoners serving life sentences without the possibility of parole in state and federal prison. Of the states that sentence nonviolent non-violent offenders to life without parole, the states with the highest number of prisoners were Alabama, Louisiana, Florida, Mississippi, Oklahoma and South Carolina. A number of these sentences stem from three-strikes and other habitual offender laws that end with life without parole.
While federal prisoners accounted for 63% of those life without parole sentences, Alabama ranked third of all of the states, having 244 prisoners serving life without parole sentences for non-violent crimes. The prisoners were convicted of non-violent crimes including drug offenses (49), property crimes (171), and other offenses. There were 158 of the 244 total who were sentenced according to the habitual offender act. In the state of Alabama, there are a total of 1,507 inmates serving life sentences without parole for both violent and non-violent crimes.
Many critics, including the ACLU have found that in states like Alabama, the punishments outweigh the crimes. State penal authorities claim that the problem is with the legal definition of “non-violent.” In Alabama, select property and drug offenses are considered violent cries. According to the Alabama sentencing commission, all drug trafficking and felony offenses are violent offenses.
The U.S. penal system, including state systems like in Alabama where offenders can be incarcerated for non-violent crimes, has been criticized throughout the world. Not only are offenders facing extreme punishments, but incarceration is a huge tax burden costing the state and federal government to house and care for inmates. According to the ACLU, tax payers are responsible for $1.8 billion caring for those non-violent offenders. The study was based on interviews, correspondence, prisoner surveys and data from U.S. and state law enforcement agencies.
Individuals charged with property or drug crimes should remember that they could face serious penalties upon conviction. Habitual offenders are at risk of serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. If you have been accused of a crime, you should consult with an experienced advocate as soon as possible to protect your rights. An experienced advocate can challenge allegations, and reduce charges or penalties in your case.