Three strikes laws were intended to stop repeat offenders from committing crimes and gained popularity throughout the United States in the mid-nineties. The three strikes laws were criticized at the time for not having a real impact on crime and filling the nation’s prisons at taxpayer expense. The laws are now under scrutinyagain for their aggressive “lock ‘em up” strategy without significant results in the reduction of crime. In the state of Alabama, the Habitual Felony Offender Act is the active “three strikes” law. The law requires that repeat offenders be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Alabama has been ranked third in the nation for the highest number of prisoners who committed non-violent crimes and are serving life sentences without the possibility of parole. Our Birmingham criminal defense attorneys are committed to protecting the rights of each defendant we accept the responsibility of representing. We are abreast of developments in the law and are dedicated to keeping our community informed about legal issues, including criticism of the three-strikes laws.
Even though many criminologists have predicted that the three strikes laws would not have a great impact in reducing crime, the laws have maintained popularity nationwide. Critics have also pointed out that the three strikes laws have contributed to overcrowded prisons in Alabama and nationwide. The Habitual Offender Law in Alabama was passed in 1977 and removes any discretion during sentencing. Offenders are not even given the opportunity for parole of the sentence.
Under the original law, any person convicted of three felonies is subject to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. There are no exceptions provided under the law and anyone convicted of a crime could be sentenced to a lifetime in prison for a Class A felony. The absolute mandates of the law fail to consider any circumstances of past convictions or any elements of the crime. The law also did not provide for early release based on rehabilitation. New modifications to the law a person who has prior felony convictions and who has been convicted of a Class A felony can be sentenced to life with the possibility of parole.
Many victims’ rights organizations and other advocates in support of tough sentencing continue to support the three strikes system, despite the burden on Alabama taxpayers and the prison system. In the long-term, the laws do not provide relief for the rehabilitation of prisoners or even the reduction in prison inmates. With Alabama’s prisons already overcrowded, the laws could be unsustainable.
When under investigation or charged with a crime, it is important to consult with an experienced advocate. Many defendants do not realize the severe and harsh penalties of Alabama’s criminal justice system. The three strikes system can be a death knell for offenders who have been charged with assault, drug crimes, and other non-violent offenses. Even if it is your first offense, you want to be that your record does not force you into a lifetime prison sentence. Despite criticisms and challenges to the law, the three strikes system still dominates when sentencing convicted offenders.