Birmingham Criminal Defense Blog

Alabama Prison Overcrowding Solutions Sought

Posted in Alabama Criminal Law, Alabama Drug Laws

Alabama is notorious for overcrowded prisons and, in some instances, deplorable prison conditions. In addition to incarcerating non-violent offenders and turning to “lock-ups” as a solution to all alleged crimes, the state is relying on a prison system that is on the verge of a bankruptcy.

Currently, there are over 26,000 inmates, twice the number of inmates that prisons were intended to house. The massively overcrowded prison system is one of the biggest strains on the state General Fund budget, costing nearly $395 million for the 2015 fiscal year. Prisons also cannot keep up with the demand for corrections officers. The ratio of inmates to officers is currently twice the national average.

prisonwireSome have suggested that the solution to overcrowding is to build more prisons. While this may seem like an easy way to address criminal activity in Alabama, it ignores the fiscal reality that building more prisons is enormously costly to tax payers and does not actually help to reduce crime in the long-run. Our Birmingham criminal defense attorneys are dedicated to protecting the rights of individuals who have been arrested and charged with crimes in the state of Alabama. We understand that even individuals accused of non-violent crimes could face lengthy prison sentences. We believe in providing aggressive defense to reduce charges and penalties, including incarceration.

According to the Council of State Governments’ Justice Center, it would cost Alabama taxpayers $840 million to end the overcrowding in the prisons. This does not include the additional costs of staffing and operation. In one year, analysts project that it would cost over $1 billion to erect the prisons and put them into operation for only one year. The inevitable costs of incarceration are not realistic in dealing with offenders in the state, especially those who have been locked up for non-violent crimes. While effective criminal defense is one option to help keep defendants out of jail, other policy changes are necessary to stop overcrowding and maintain a manageable prison system.

One viable solution for dealing with the overcrowding is slowing the rates of imprisonment. Some advocates of this solution have proposed alternative sentencing and treatment options, community corrections programs and other housing options that could give non-violent offenders the ability to work and get back on track after a criminal conviction, rather than cost taxpayers locked-up. While some offenders may be better off behind bars if they pose an actual physical threat to others, these offenders are the minority. Most don’t deserve an extensive amount of time behind bars, and taxpayers can’t afford to foot the bill for such a damaging, ineffective approach.

Our Alabama criminal defense attorneys understand that the overcrowding in state prisons is not only a problem for taxpayers and prison operators, it is also a problem for defendants and convicted offenders. Whether you have been arrested and charged with a drug crime, facing penalties for white collar offenses, computer crimes, sex crimes, or other criminal charges, we can aggressively protect your rights and interests. Our priority is to defeat your charges. We will pursue every available legal strategy to keep you out of prison.

If you have been arrested in Birmingham, call Defense Lawyer Steven Eversole at (866) 831-5292.

Additional Resources:

Prison Quotas Push Lawmakers to Fill Beds, Derail Reform, Sept. 20, 2013, By Chris Kirkham, The Huffington Post

More Blog Entries:

Historical Criminal Case Illustrates the Importance of Key Legal Protections, Sept. 6, 2013, Birmingham Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog

Alabama Federal Judge Arrested for Domestic Assault

Posted in Assault Charges

Criminal charges, including domestic assault or battery, often involve those who might seem unlikely suspects. The fact is, no one is immune from the law. In fact, high profile suspects often tend to receive harsher penalties, as police and prosecutors are eager to “make an example” or prove a point. They know the public is watching closely.

Business executives, professional athletes, celebrities, and most recently, a federal judge, have all been charged with domestic abuse. Cases involving domestic abuse or assault tend to involve complex fact scenarios and “he-said, she-said” claims. For any defendant, consulting with a legal advocate as soon as possible is key to protecting your rights. A conviction can result in serious penalties as well as a damaging criminal record and loss of reputation.

In a recent case, an Alabama federal judge was arrested and charged with battery after accusations that he assaulted his wife in Atlanta. According to reports, police responded to reports of an altercation at the Ritz-Carlton in Atlanta. The case sheds light on the complexity of domestic abuse allegations, as well as the lasting consequences of a criminal charge. Our Birmingham domestic assault defense attorneys understand the complex nature of these cases and treat all clients with dignity and respect. We understand the damaging outcome of a criminal conviction and will explore every defense opportunity to minimize charges and penalties.

Police reports allege the 55-year-old U.S. District Court Judge for the Middle District of Alabama in Montgomery was arrested and accused of domestic battery. A woman on the scene was treated for injuries, but declined transport to the hospital. Records indicated the defendant was being held in jail without bond.

He is well-known and respected in the legal community, and could face additional disciplinary action if convicted. The case is a reminder that anyone can end up under the scrutiny of the law and face criminal charges. Experienced advocacy and defense is critical to ensure that you are not over-charged or over-penalized for your crimes.

Domestic abuse charges can carry stiff and immediate penalties. Some examples include restraining orders, a long-term jail sentence, hefty fines, and professional penalties. Upon conviction, you may not be able to enter your home or see your children. You could lose child custody or have your visitation rights severely curtailed.

One way to prevent the damaging consequences of a domestic abuse allegation is to defeat the underlying charges. An experienced attorney can review the facts of your case, talk with witnesses and the victim and look at ways to argue for reduced charges. In some cases, the underlying domestic abuse or battery charges can be dismissed or defeated before the case ever advances to the trial phase.

This case is a reminder that criminal defendants come from all walks of life. The defendant-judge presided over the bribery trial of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman and HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy in 2006. The jury found both defendants guilty on the charges that the governor solicited a $500,000 donation in return for a seat on the hospital regulatory board. The judge ordered jurors to continue deliberating even after they said they reached an impasse. A appeal for a new trial after alleged juror misconduct was denied. A second appeal alleging that the judge should have stepped down was also denied.

Now, the judge will find the roles reversed.

For more information or to speak with an experienced Birmingham defense lawyer, contact Steven Eversole at (866) 831-5292.

More Blog Entries:

Alabama Criminal Convictions Profitable for Private Prisons, Sept. 20, 2013, Birmingham Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog

Arrested Juveniles More Apt to Offer False Confessions, Sept. 24, 2013, Birmingham Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog

Seven Arrested in Mobile Meth Lab Raid

Posted in Alabama Criminal Law

Drug raids and arrest often involve multiple defendants, potential conspiracy charges and charges ranging from possession to trafficking.

In a recent case, the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office arrested seven people after raiding a methamphetamine lab. The raid resulted in the arrest of five defendants who were on the premises as well as two other alleged buyers, who the officers located by using a cell phone on the property.

Meth crimes, including manufacture, sale and possession, can carry serious penalties.

In this case, the five defendants arrested in the lab will be charged with first-degree manufacturing, possession of narcotic paraphernalia, use of drug paraphernalia and trafficking methamphetamine. Our Birmingham criminal defense attorneys are experienced in defending clients against serious drug charges. In these cases, we will review the facts of the arrest and protect the rights of any defendant from interrogation through criminal trial.

According to authorities, the officers arrived at a defendant’s address to execute an arrest warrant for the possession of drug paraphernalia. When the officer’s arrived at the door, they reportedly smelled meth. Inside the home, officers claim to have uncovered an active meth lab. The five suspects found in the meth lab were arrested on the scene. Two other defendants were arrested after deputies arranged a meeting using a cell phone belonging to one of the alleged traffickers. Undoubtedly, prosecutors will attempt to use evidence of this buy not only in the case against the buyers, but also against the owner of the phone.

These accused buyers were charged with attempting to commit a controlled substances crime. One of them had five outstanding arrest warrants for crimes that included trafficking methamphetamine and possession of narcotic paraphernalia.

Any arrest involving a prior history or aggravated offenses can compound the charges and penalties. In this case, one defendant is facing additional charges for carrying a pistol without a permit. All seven arrestees were booked at the Mobile County Metro Jail. Only one of the defendants was released on bond.

Search and seizure laws limit and circumscribe the legal procedures for officers to conduct a search of a person, vehicle, home, office or other property. In most cases, officers are required to have a search warrant in hand. Even then, authorities must be specific about how the search is conducted and the target of the search.

In the event of an arrest, defendants should consult with an experienced advocate who can analyze police records and reports. Any illegally-performed search and seizure of property can result in the suppression of evidence. If the drug and paraphernalia evidence is suppressed, many times the prosecution cannot sustain a case.

Meth crimes are fast becoming some of the most heavily-investigated and prosecuted in the United States. Individuals who are arrested and charged with meth possession, sales, manufacture or trafficking will likely face severe charges and penalties. Our legal team is experienced in the investigation of meth lab manufacturing busts and raids, as well as the defense against sales and possession crimes. From investigating the search and seizure operation through interrogation and trial, our priority is to make sure that the defendant’s rights are protected in the criminal process.

If you have been arrested in Birmingham, call Criminal Defense Lawyer Steven Eversole at (866) 831-5292.

More Blog Entries:

Aggressive Prosecution of Cyber Crimes in Alabama, November 3, 2013, Birmingham Drug Defense Lawyer Blog

Arrested Juveniles More Apt to Offer False Confessions, Sept. 24, 2013, Birmingham Drug Defense Lawyer Blog

Alabama Criminal Expungement Law Takes Effect

Posted in Record Expungements

A new law has taken effect in Alabama permitting those who have been living under the cloud of a prior criminal arrest to finally be freed of those burdens. erasure

For the first time ever in this state, those previously charged with non-violent felonies and non-violent misdemeanors or traffic violations will be allowed to petition the court for a clean slate, assuming they meet certain criteria. Our Birmingham expungement lawyers are available to help clients expunge their records.

The bill, AL SB 108, formally went into effect July 6. The terms and conditions under which individuals can apply are extensive. Basically, though, here’s what the law says:

If you were arrested for non-violent felony charges, non-violent misdemeanor charges or traffic infractions, you can petition the court to have your record expunged if the case resulted in a Grand Jury no-bill, a dismissal of the charge with prejudice, a finding of not guilty or you completed a mandated diversion program a full year ago or more. Additionally, individuals whose charges were dismissed without prejudice can apply to have the arrest record expunged, so long as the case hasn’t been refiled and there have been no other convictions for felonies, misdemeanors or traffic violations in the interim.

The benefits to having a record expunged are numerous. First, there is the benefit to your employment situation. The new law allows job applicants with expunged records to legally answer “no” in response to employment application questions concerning arrests.

Additionally, persons wishing to get a loan for a car or a house or education may be unable to do so with a prior criminal record, which is readily accessible to lenders. It’s also important for anyone seeking to obtain custody of a child or adopt. Family courts will take your prior criminal record into close consideration. However, if the record is expunged under the terms of this law, it won’t be a factor in the case.

News reports indicates thousands of people in Alabama are lining up for this opportunity. However, not all are securing legal guidance before doing so. This is a mistake. While some people are seeking to avoid the cost of an attorney when they are already required to pay a $300 administrative fee, the fact is that an arrest record is a major impediment when it comes to the job market. Investing in an attorney is well worth it, particularly when you consider the court may not entertain numerous requests from the same individual over the same case. If your request is denied, you may not get another chance.

Assuming a client meets the criteria – which our Alabama expungement attorneys can help determine before beginning the application process – we will guide the petition through the court. This includes a sworn statement attesting to meeting the requirements, and an indication of whether he or she has previously applied for expungement. The application is going to include a record of arrest and the outcome, whether in a disposition or action summary. There is also the certified record from the state’s Criminal Justice Information Center.

Once the petition is filed, the state will have 45 days to make a decision. If for some reason the request is rejected, our attorneys can help you consider whether to file an appeal.

To learn more about Alabama’s new expungement law and how we can help you obtain a fresh start, call our offices today.

If you have been arrested in Birmingham, call Defense Lawyer Steven Eversole at (866) 831-5292.

Additional Resources:

Alabama’s expungement law in effect: People lining up to get records cleared, July 7, 2014, By Daniela Perallon, WHNT 19 News

More Blog Entries:

Petition of Federal Drug Sentence Reduction in Alabama, July 30, 2014, Birmingham Expungement Lawyer Blog

Alabama Men Face Sentencing for Bank Robberies in Federal Court

Posted in Federal Criminal Appeals, Your Rights

State and federal courts take on different crimes, depending on the nature of the allegation, jurisdiction where it occurred, and the severity of the offense. One of the most common instances are bank robberies, which are investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigations and typically prosecuted in federal court.

In a recent case, two Alabama men have been charged with federal crimes for allegedly robbing eight banks in the Southeastern region. According to the FBI and U.S. Attorney, the men were charged in federal court with bank robbery, conspiracy, intimidating a witness, brandishing a firearm during a violent felony, and interstate transport of a stolen vehicle.

The defendants, from Mobile and Pritchard,  were charged in a Mississippi federal court for the alleged crimes, which occurred between 2008 and 2013. According to the prosecution, the crimes occurred in Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi. Our Birmingham criminal defense attorneys are dedicated to protecting the rights of accused criminals in state and federal court. We understand the serious criminal charges and penalties facing both state and federal defendants. Our priority is to raise the best possible defense to protect the rights and long-term interests of our clients.

According to reports, the defendants were convicted after a two week trial. One defendant was charged with 17 counts of bank robbery, conspiracy, brandishing a firearm during a felony and transportation of a stolen vehicle across state lines. The other defendant was convicted of 11 separate counts of the same crimes. The U.S. District judge will sentence both of the defendants in October.

Law enforcement reports and court documents indicate that the men robbed three separate banks throughout Mississippi. In 2013, the convicted felons robbed banks in Florida, Mississippi, and Alabama. According to prosecutors, there was a four-year gap in the robberies when one of the defendants was incarcerated for another conviction. Two additional defendants were arrested and charged related to the crimes. They pled guilty and were given leniency because they cooperated against the primary defendants. Federal investigators will often use informants to support or prove a larger case against more prominent defendants. Remember that if you are being interrogated for a federal crime, it is likely that the law enforcement officials have been building a case against you for weeks or months, maybe even years.

Federal crimes, especially those of the caliber and severity in this case, can result in serious penalties. The defendants are facing prison sentences of 25 years and a $250,000 fine for each count and potentially 5 years in prison and a $250,000 crime for each count of conspiracy to commit a crime. In addition to stiff penalties and a lengthy prison sentence, the felony charges will bring a host of other penalties, even once are released from prison. In the event that you are being investigated or charged with federal or serious felony crimes, it is important to consult with an experienced advocate as soon as possible. Negotiating a plea bargain for a lesser charge is possible, but before you plead guilty, it is important to understand the long-term consequences of a criminal conviction.

If you have been arrested in Birmingham, call Defense Lawyer Steven Eversole at (866) 831-5292.

More Blog Entries:

Aggressive Prosecution of Cyber Crimes in Alabama, November 3, 2013, Birmingham Drug Defense Lawyer Blog

Arrested Juveniles More Apt to Offer False Confessions, Sept. 24, 2013, Birmingham Drug Defense Lawyer Blog

Timing of Sex Crimes Allegations Against Pastor Raise Doubt for Defense

Posted in Sex Crimes

Communities impacted by sexual investigations and charges can take years or even decades to recover. For those who are under investigation, the allegations, interrogation, criminal charges, and subsequent penalties upon conviction can be a lifetime struggle. In a recent Alabama case, a former pastor charged with sex crimes appeared at a hearing this month. The pastor has been accused of sex crimes by two adults who were children when they claimed they were abused.

Sex crimes charges and allegations can become more complicated when law enforcement is looking for evidence in an attempt to patch a case together, long after alleged crimes have occurred. Memories can shift, witnesses may be lost, and it can be difficult to locate or gather any real evidence. Our Birmingham sex crimes defense attorneys are experienced in representing defendants in complex sex crimes cases. We understand the sensitive nature of these cases and will treat every alleged sex offender with dignity in handling every case with discretion. While sex crimes should not go unpunished, the accused deserve a fair trial to ensure proper conviction and should not be over-penalized for their offenses.

The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office reports that it initiated investigation last spring after a man reported that he was molested by the pastor. Another woman also came forward to police and claimed that she had been arrested by the pastor. At the time the investigation took place, the pastor was serving at a local Baptist Church. He was arrested last month and the church subsequently cut off all ties. After the church was notified of the criminal charges, his employment was terminated and he made no further comment on the allegations. The pastor worked at a local hospital and was placed on leave until the criminal matter has been resolved.

The judge granted a motion to postpone the hearing. The defense attorney on behalf of the pastor requested postponement so that the defense had more time to investigate the allegations. According to the defense, more time was necessary to make make the best decisions and prepare a defense. The allegations involve events that occurred nearly a decade ago. The defense has raised questions about the delay in reporting the abuse and questions the reason why the allegations are only surfacing now. No other allegations of sex crimes were on record in the church or the local police department.

According to the defense, the pastor has maintained his innocence. In the courtroom he was supported by his wife and other relatives. The pastor has been out of jail on a $70,000 bond while his attorney investigates and prepares a defense. In cases involving sex crimes allegations, the defendant is already being punished by public scrutiny and will face a stigma regardless of whether he is found guilty. It is critical in sex crimes cases to thoroughly investigate allegations, consult with witnesses and experts, and to prepare the best possible defense.

If you have been arrested in Birmingham, call Defense Lawyer Steven Eversole at (866) 831-5292.

More Blog Entries:

Lethal Drug Shortage: Future of Alabama Executions Unclear, April 14, 2014, Birmingham Drug Defense Lawyer Blog

Arrested Juveniles More Apt to Offer False Confessions, Sept. 24, 2013, Birmingham Drug Defense Lawyer Blog

Computer Crimes: Theft of Child Identity

Posted in Alabama Criminal Law

Identity theft is increasingly investigated and prosecuted in Alabama and nationwide. Those who are charged with the crime can face serious penalties, including federal charges. While banks and credit card companies are seeking new ways to safeguard accounts against fraud, some expert criminals are seeking out a new form of identity theft—theft of a child’s identity. The classic form of identity theft is taking over another person’s name, Social Security number and credit record. This is an easier and more successful feat when the target has a virtual clean slate.

baby-diaperWhen under investigation for theft or a serious federal offense, it is important to consult with an experienced advocate who can protect your rights. Our Birmingham criminal defense attorneys have extensive experience representing clients facing federal charges and serious penalties. We also understand the advanced technology and resources used to investigate complex crimes, including computer crimes and identity theft. To best protect the rights of a defendant, we will review all evidence, poke holes in the prosecution’s case, and challenge any 4th Amendment violations, including unlawful search or seizure of property.

Historically, identity theft involved borrowing separate pieces of information and creating a new identity. An ID thief may use one person’s name, another person’s security card, or draw information from multiple accounts to create a single ID. According to a CBS report, identity thefts can successfully gain credit with only an address and a Social Security number. Many creditors do not thoroughly screen applications and will look for a credit pattern and Social Security recognition. This means that targeting children with a blank slate credit score can be successful and lucrative for potential fraudsters.

Kids can be vulnerable to identity theft because they have a pre-existing Social Security number. Most children do not have a credit report or check their credit scores for years. They will only discover a credit mark when they apply for student loans that their Social Security number, name, or address has been in use. Identity thieves have used medical records, school forms, and other documentation that unnecessarily ask for a child’s Social Security number. Crime watchdog groups say that parents should be very aware of who they are giving information to and why. Children in foster homes have also been targets of identity theft. Many victims will not realize that their credit has plummeted for years after the theft occurred.

Individuals who have been accused of identity theft should be aware of the potential charges they may face. Identity theft may be “true name” fraud or “account takeover fraud.” Defendants may get charged for opening another account with another person’s name, birth date, or Social Security number. Congress passed The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act in 1998, making it a federal crime to transfer a means of identification with an intent to commit unlawful activity. Charges and penalties can be lasting and severe. Individuals who are under investigation or who are facing computer or criminal identity theft charges should consult with an experienced advocate who can review the facts of their case and protect their rights.

For more information or to speak with an experienced Birmingham defense lawyer, contact Steven Eversole at (866) 831-5292.

More Blog Entries:

Alabama Criminal Convictions Profitable for Private Prisons, Sept. 20, 2013, Birmingham Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog

Arrested Juveniles More Apt to Offer False Confessions, Sept. 24, 2013, Birmingham Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog

TruNarc Reduces Drug Case Backlog in Alabama

Posted in Alabama Criminal Law

A backlog of drug cases has resulted from budget cuts that have reduced staff and resources in Alabama’s crime lab. Now officials in Etowah County are seeking alternatives to tackle the mounting drug cases. The county has approved the use of a portable tool that analyzes drugs on scene. According to analysts, the TruNarc device can identify and analyze and identify drug compositions within only a few minutes. While the device may ease the caseload for law enforcement officials, defendants should be wary of the implications of “on scene” testing.

trunarcAfter any drug arrest or charge, it is important for defendants to have a clear understanding of their rights. From the initial search and seizure of property, through interrogations, and lab tests, it is important that defendants have an independent advocate who can help review the evidence. Our Birmingham drug crimes defense attorneys are dedicated to staying abreast of law enforcement processes, procedures, and new technologies. Understanding the way that local and state law enforcement build a criminal case is necessary to building the most effective defense.

According to reports, the new device has helped law enforcement officials significantly reduce the backlog of drug cases. It has only been in use for three months, but the device allows law enforcement officials to use the device at the scene of the seizure. The equipment obtained by the county was paid for by a grant and costs approximately $40,000. It has the capability of determining contents of substances through plastic bags. It can also identify bath salts, spices, and other narcotics that would otherwise be waiting for a crime lab analysis. Enforcement officials say that the device requires at least a quarter of a gram to make an accurate determination.

Officers have likened them to a breathalyzer, allowing officers to get a quick reading and determination about the content and substances being seized at the time of arrest. In some cases, the TruNarc cannot give a reading, but the manufacturer provides online support to help make an accurate determination. In Etowah County alone, there are 2,000 backlogged cases waiting for tests as a result of the budget cuts at the Jacksonville forensics lab. Now the county is able to sidestep the budget cuts and has found an alternative to the lab tests.

From a criminal defense standpoint, this new technology is highly suspect and must be challenged. Like breathalyzer examinations, junk science will too often serve to convict defendants who fail to retain experienced legal help.
Stalled tests also mean that the entire criminal case will have to be postponed. Law enforcement officials have been able to push through 250 cases a month since procuring the new technology. This has allowed officers to cut the backlog in half. They are hoping to have resolved the backlog by the end of the year. For prosecutors, the TruNarc means a quicker turnaround. The agency does not have to wait for a toxicology report. Defendants are given their “day in court.” While this may be a positive breakthrough for law enforcement agencies, the TruNarc should also be reviewed and challenged by defense attorneys. Ensuring proper administration and accurate readings is necessary to prevent wrongful convictions in Alabama.

If you have been arrested in Birmingham, call Defense Lawyer Steven Eversole at (866) 831-5292.

More Blog Entries:

Aggressive Prosecution of Cyber Crimes in Alabama, November 3, 2013, Birmingham Drug Defense Lawyer Blog

Arrested Juveniles More Apt to Offer False Confessions, Sept. 24, 2013, Birmingham Drug Defense Lawyer Blog

Petition of Federal Drug Sentence Reduction in Alabama

Posted in Alabama Drug Laws

In a decision that is going to mean early freedom for tens of thousands of federal prisoners, the U.S. Sentencing Commission has voted to retroactively grant reduced sentences for those convicted of federal drug trafficking crimes.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

While releases will be granted no earlier than November 2015, petitions can be submitted as early as November 2014. Our Birmingham criminal defense lawyers are here to guide prisoners and their families through the process.

While sentence reductions extended to some 50,000 prisoners will average about two years, the exact amount of reduction will depend heavily on the facts of the case. That means legal analysis prior to submission of a petition to the court will be important in maximizing benefits of each case.

While this measure will not directly impact state-level offenders, it’s indicative of a growing recognition that minimum mandatory sentencing is inherently unfair.  Legislators across the country have pushed for sentence and charge reduction initiatives, which could benefit non-federal offenders as well. It’s important to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to determine whether you may be eligible to avail yourself of certain benefits.

There is reason to believe a fair number of offenders seeking reductions will be granted respite, based on the outcome of the 2007 Crack Cocaine Amendment, which was applied retroactively beginning in the spring of 2008. The goal of reform was to reduce penalties for those convicted of crimes involving the possession and sale of crack-cocaine, to bring them more in line with penalties for those convicted of similar crimes involving powder cocaine.

Within three years, nearly 65 percent of those were approved, while 35 percent were denied. Of those denied, roughly 77 percent were filed by offenders who weren’t eligible under the stated terms of the change. Only 6 percent were denied on the basis of a threat to public safety.

In Alabama, state lawmakers last year approved new sentencing guidelines that allow for reduced sentences for a wide range of nonviolent drug and theft offenders. While those guidelines had been available since 2006, lawmakers made the changes “presumptive,” meaning judges have to offer a compelling reason, such as an aggravating circumstance, if they wish to deviate from guidelines to impose a stiffer penalty.

While fairness is an inherent part of the argument with these changes, one of the greater considerations is money. Specifically, jails and prisons are exceedingly overcrowded. While the federal system is 33 percent over capacity, the Alabama system is roughly 50 percent over capacity. There simply isn’t enough funding to keep up with the demand for housing, especially if prosecutors insist on the continued pursuit of the failed “War on Drugs.”

But it’s not solely drug offenders who can benefit. In particular, first time, non-violent felony offenders in Alabama increasingly have the option of requesting placement in one of the state’s many diversion programs, which have gained popularity in recent years. Offenders who successfully complete these programs may walk away with a clean criminal record.

 If you have been arrested in Birmingham or wish to inquire about a petition for sentence reduction, call Defense Lawyer Steven Eversole at (866) 831-5292.

Alabama Offenders Forced to Commit Crimes to Pay Court Fees

Posted in Alabama Criminal Law, Alabama Criminal Procedure

A recent study shows that Alabama residents have committed crimes just to pay their court fees. In the state of Alabama, fee structures mean that offenders pay for the system. This can mean unmanageable fees and fines for those who are already struggling. According to reports, not only have the collections fallen short of predictions, but offenders who are bound by court costs are often forced into other crimes just to pay off their debts. A recent study performed by the Jefferson County community program,  Treatment Alternatives for Safer Communities (TASC), found that the policy leaves offenders bogged down by debts they cannot pay.

When faced with a choice of a burdensome court debt that could land defendants back in jail, many of them are forced to commit crimes to pay to feed their children and pay the court. Our Birmingham criminal defense attorneys are committed to seeking justice for our clients and their families. In addition to providing strategic defense to our clients, we are also abreast of legal issues that impact the lives of residents. One way to prevent the exorbitant court costs that fund Alabama’s criminal justice system, is to defeat the underlying charges.

The study, called  The Burden of Criminal Justice Debt in Alabama, shows that former defendants who have struggled to pay court costs have turned to payday loans, family members, and even crime to get ahead. Data showed that 55% had to borrower money from family or friends. Six out of ten offenders had to choose between court costs and necessities, including food or medical bills. Others admitted to selling drugs, stealing, gambling or prostitution to pay their court costs. The survey assessed the payment history and records of 900 non-violent offenders who were on probation or supervision throughout Alabama. In addition to struggling to get jobs, many of these defendants are also struggling to get out of debt. They have court costs and fees that they cannot pay off which in turn has led to additional crimes, and naturally, more victims.

The cycle is simple, but detrimental to the residents of Alabama. Not only does it prevent convicted offenders from getting ahead, but it also increases the risk of crimes. Crime leads to debt and more crimes which can result in prison and high-costs for the state, not to mention the number of victims, including individuals, families and businesses. In the end, it is the taxpayers who end up footing the bill for the debts.

In the event that a debtor cannot pay the court, they will return to jail. The report indicated that 18% of Alabama offenders were forced to return to prison for failure to pay court costs. In some counties that number was as high as 63%. This system disproportionately impacts the poor who already struggle to find employment. Paying high court costs can prevent them from ever buying a car or getting a job. In the worst cases, court costs leave them unable to care for their families.

For more information or to speak with an experienced Birmingham defense lawyer, contact Steven Eversole at (866) 831-5292.

More Blog Entries:

Alabama Criminal Convictions Profitable for Private Prisons, Sept. 20, 2013, Birmingham Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog

Arrested Juveniles More Apt to Offer False Confessions, Sept. 24, 2013, Birmingham Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog