Alabama Criminal Law: An Overview
Birmingham has Alabama’s highest crime rate and is one of the top cities in the United States in crime rates according to FBI statistics. Even if you don’t live in Birmingham, you should still be prepared when you face criminal charges. That means learning about Alabama’s criminal laws.
Use LawInfo’s criminal law articles to help educate yourself about Alabama’s laws and how they affect your case. You can learn about the difference between misdemeanors and felonies, intoxicated driving charges and many other state-specific criminal law topics. You can also use LawInfo to connect with an Alabama criminal law attorney in Birmingham, Montgomery, Mobile or elsewhere in the state.
Crime Classifications in Alabama
Every state has its own system of classifying crimes which also identifies the statutory punishments for each classification. Like most states, Alabama has two main classifications of crimes: felonies and misdemeanors. Felonies are more severe crimes than misdemeanors and typically carry heavier sentences.
All Alabama felonies and misdemeanors carry a fine and an imprisonment term in their sentences. The minimum and maximum sentences for felonies and misdemeanors include:
- Up to $500 and three months in county jail or hard labor at a minimum for Class C misdemeanors.
- Up to $6,000 and one year in county jail or hard labor at a maximum for Class A misdemeanors.
- Up to $7,500 and between one and five years of imprisonment at a minimum for Class D felonies.
- Up to $60,000 and between 10 and 99 years of imprisonment at a maximum for Class A felonies. If a Class A felony involved a firearm or a sexual offense with a child, the imprisonment term can be no less than 20 years.
Lesser crimes like traffic violations are classified as violations in Alabama. Violations carry a sentence of up to $200 and 30 days in county jail.
Capital Punishment in Alabama
The most severe crimes are called capital offenses in Alabama. These crimes may carry the death penalty or life imprisonment if the defendant is found guilty. Murder is the only capital offense in Alabama, though its laws specify the exact kinds of murders that qualify as capital offenses, including:
- Murder during a robbery.
- Murder during a rape of the first or second degree.
- Murder of any state or federal uniformed officer of the law.
- Murder of a minor less than 14 years of age.
Murder vs. Manslaughter in Alabama
Not all homicides are treated equally under Alabama law. Some homicides may receive lighter sentences than others depending on the defendant’s intentions and emotional state when they committed the crime. This is the difference that separates murder convictions from manslaughter convictions.
A homicide is classified as manslaughter if the defendant’s actions were reckless or influenced by the heat of passion. Heat-of-passion manslaughter cases often involve a spurned lover killing their partner or a third party in an extramarital affair with their partner. If a defendant committed manslaughter, they had no preconceived intention of killing the victim.
Manslaughter is a Class B felony in Alabama, which can carry a sentence of up to $30,000 and between two and 20 years of imprisonment. If a firearm was involved, the imprisonment term cannot be less than 10 years.