Recently in Mobile, a jury slapped a conviction for first-degree rape on a defendant who was tried for forcing himself on a female relative at a residence where she had been celebrating her 21st birthday.
He was arrested on Alabama rape charges following the February 2011 incident.
Our Birmingham sex crime defense lawyers recognize that with a first-degree rape charge, the defendant is looking at a minimum of 10 years behind bars and a maximum of life in prison, per Alabama Code 13A-6-61. He is scheduled to be sentenced later this month.
One thing that this defendant will have in his favor is that, despite his prior criminal record out-of-state for similar offenses, those incidents won’t be held against him in terms of automatically upping his sentence range.
Under state law, a person can face stiffer penalties if he or she has a history of criminal convictions – particularly for the same or similar offenses – regardless of whether those offenses occurred here in Alabama or elsewhere.
The reason this defendant won’t is because his prior sexual assault convictions, out of Texas, ended in no contest pleas. No contest is a shorter way of saying “nolo contendere,” which is a legal term derived from the Latin phrase, “I do not wish to contend.” Essentially what it means is that the defendant neither disputes nor admits the charge. It’s not a guilty plea, but it usually has the same effect as a guilty plea. It’s frequently used in the event of a plea bargain, at the close of a case.
Many defendants will use this in cases where there may be enough evidence to convict them, but when admitting guilt would add the element of malice or negligence, which could potentially be used in future civil litigation.
There are some states where a plea of no contest can be treated as a prior conviction for the purposes of future sentencing. Florida is one example. Alabama is not.
As a matter of fact, not only does Alabama not recognize these prior pleas from other states, Alabama does not recognize no contest pleas period. Here, you may either plead guilty or not guilty. There is no alternative.
So while the prosecutor in this case is seeking to label the defendant as a “serial rapist,” those prior no contest pleas can’t be used against him.
According to testimony in this case, the 42-year-old defendant had only sporadic contact with the accuser during the time she was growing up, as he lived out-of-state. The accuser was at another relative’s home when the defendant arrived and offered to take her to his girlfriend’s home. She left with him, but they instead went to an empty home. The defendant said that the sexual encounters that happened thereafter were consensual. The accuser says otherwise, indicating that he raped her three times before driving her to his girlfriend’s actual house and threatening to harm her if she told anyone what happened.
The accuser then told another relative what happened, and that relative contacted police.
A hospital examination and subsequent DNA test confirmed that sexual intercourse had taken place between the two.