Alabama Felonies, Misdemeanors, and Infractions
In Alabama crimes are categorized as felonies, misdemeanors and infractions. This categorization is based on the severity of the offense, its associated penalties, and determines how the crime is tried in Alabama state courts. Offenses that are tagged as felonies are usually the most violent and severe crimes. With the severity comes very strict punishment that could be as little as 10 years imprisonment to as high as the death sentence. Misdemeanors are less serious crimes and the accompanying penalties for committing misdemeanors are not as harsh as felonies. Violations are technically not crimes because they do not go into the criminal record. They are mostly traffic offenses.
What is a Felony in Alabama?
Section13A–1–2(8) of the Code of Alabama defines a felony as an offense that has a penalty of imprisonment for a period that exceeds 1 year. The jail term given by the court for a felony offense may be anytime exceeding 1 year depending on the gravity of the offense. Section 13A–5–3 ranks offenses that are tagged felonies into 4 different classes, Section 13A–5–6 recommends possible lengths of jail terms for each class of felonies while Section 13A–5–11 spells out possible fine limits for each class of a felony. The different classes of felony and the accompanying recommended punishments are:
- Class A Felonies: They are the most serious offenses and they carry very weighty penalties. The Code of Alabama recommends imprisonment for a minimum of 10 years and it can be as long as life imprisonment or 99 years. A fine not exceeding $60,000 may also be served on the culprit.
- Class B Felonies: Offenses in this class are to be punished by imprisonment for a period that should not be more than 20 years or less than 2 years. Any fine charged by the court for committing offenses in this class must also not exceed $30,000.
- Class C Felonies: The maximum jail term for offenses in this class is imprisonment for a period not exceeding 10 years and should not be less than 1 year and 1 day. The authorized upper limit for fines to be charged for offenses in this class is $15,000.
- Class D Felonies: Class D felonies are the least ranked felonies in Alabama. The Code recommends punishing offenders of crimes in this class by jailing them for a period that should not exceed 5 years and also, not be less than 1 year and 1 day. Fines charged for offenses in this class should not exceed $7,500.
Consistent conviction of an offender for one particular crime may lead to harsher penalties. For example, Section 13A–5–9 rules that any previous single felony conviction will make a new Class C felony conviction to be punished as a Class B felony. A previous single felony conviction will mean a new Class B felony conviction will be punished as a Class A felony. A previous single felony conviction will make a new Class A felony conviction be punished by a jail term that should not be less than 15 years and may have a maximum sentence of life imprisonment or any term, not more 99 years.
In the same vein, 2 previous convictions for a felony will upgrade the punishment for a new Class C conviction to that of a Class A felony. 2 previous felony convictions will upgrade the penalty for a new Class B conviction to a jail term that should not be less than 15 years and a maximum of 99 years or life imprisonment. 2 previous felony convictions will make a new Class A conviction be punished by 99 years imprisonment or life imprisonment.
3 previous convictions will also increase the punishment for a new conviction. It is also called The 3 strikes law. It states that any previous 3 convictions for a felony will make a new Class C conviction be given the penalty of a jail term not less than 15 years and could be maximum life imprisonment or 99 years in jail. 3 previous felony convictions will mean a new Class B conviction will be punished by a jail term that should not be less than 20 years with maximum life imprisonment or 99 years in jail. A new Class A conviction for an offender with 3 previous felony convictions will be punished by life imprisonment as the minimum. The maximum punishment will be determined by the presence of a Class A conviction among the 3 previous felony convictions. There will be a little respite for an offender without a previous Class A conviction. The life imprisonment penalty will be with the possibility of parole if the court permits. An offender with a previous Class A conviction will not be given the benefit of the possibility of parole as the punishment for the new Class A conviction. Any 3 previous convictions also upgrade the penalty for a new class D conviction to that of a Class C offense.
What Are Some Examples Of Felonies In Alabama?
Examples of crimes and offenses that fall under each class of felony include:
- Class A Felonies
- First-degree rape (defined by Section 13A–6–61 as engaging in sexual intercourse with another person by forcible compulsion or with someone that cannot give consent because they are incapacitated. An adult engaging in sexual intercourse with a minor that is 12 years or younger is also guilty of first-degree rape)
- First-degree burglary (defined by Section 13A–7–5 as intentionally entering a dwelling with the intent of committing a crime while in possession of explosives, or other dangerous weapon and also threatening to use such a weapon. The culprit must have also caused physical injury to a non-participant of the crime)
- First-degree Arson (defined by Section 13A–7–41 as intentionally damaging a building by starting a fire or causing an explosion with the knowledge that someone else is present in the building or that there is a possibility a non-participant in the crime might be in the building)
- First-degree kidnapping (defined by Section 13A–6–43 as abducting a person with the intent of holding the person for ransom or as a hostage, or using the victim as a shield and violating the victim physically or sexually)
- Class B Felonies
- First-degree assault (defined by Section 13A–6–20 as causing serious physical injury to or disfiguring another person with intent by the use of a dangerous weapon. Driving under the influence of alcohol that causes physical injury to another person is also first-degree assault)
- Unlawful distribution of drugs
- Second-degree kidnapping
- Class C Felonies
- Unlawful possession of a controlled substance
- Sexual abuse
- Receiving stolen property in the second-degree (defined by Section 13A–8–18 as receiving stolen goods or property with a value that ranges between $1,500 and $2,500 or receiving a stolen firearm, rifle or shotgun no matter the value)
- Interfering with custody rights
- Class D Felonies
- Third-degree forgery (defined in Section 13A–9–3.1 as falsely altering a written document, check or commercial instrument with intent that may affect a legal right or interest)
- Illegal possession or fraudulent use of a credit or debit card
- Third-degree theft of a lost property (defined by Section 13A–8–8.1 as the theft of lost property with a value that exceeds $500 but is not more than $1,499)
- Receiving stolen property in the third-degree (defined by Section 13A–8–18.1 as receiving stolen properties with a value exceeding $500 but not more than $1,499)
- Third-degree theft of services (defined by Section 13A–8–10.25 as the theft of services exceeding $500 in value but not exceeding $1,499 in value)
The state of Alabama does not attach any criminal statute of limitations to some felonies according to Section 15–3–5 of the Code of Alabama. Prosecutors can begin trying the case at any time after the crime has been committed. The felony offenses with no statute of limitations include:
- Any capital offense
- Any felony involving the use of violence or the threat of violence to a person
- A felony that resulted in the death or caused serious injury to a person.
- A sex offense involving a victim aged 16 years or below
- A felony involving arson, forgery, counterfeiting, and drug trafficking
Other felonies not included above generally have a time limit of 5 years within which prosecution for the offense must begin, except otherwise stated for a particular crime in the statutes.
Can I get a Felony Removed from a Court Record in Alabama?
In Alabama, felonies can be expunged from court records but it comes with very severe restrictions. Alabama’s Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) made it clear that only felony charges that were dismissed (with or without prejudice), or cases that the majority of the jurors voted against indictment (no-billed), or those that the defendant was found not guilty can be expunged. In Alabama, felony convictions cannot be expunged. Charges for violent felony cases were initially not eligible for expungement under Section 15–27–2 of the Code of Alabama.
The commission or attempt to carry out any of the following offenses, as described by Section 13A–11–70(2), are seen as violent:
- Manslaughter (except for those involving the operating of a vehicle
- Any Class A or B felony that causes serious physical injury or is of a sexual nature against a victim that was aged 12 and below.
However, a 2017 amendment now allows charges for even violent felony offenses to be eligible for expungement. Convictions are still not barred from expungement except it can be proven that the defendant was a victim of human trafficking and committed the felony offenses while trafficked.
For felony charges that were dismissed without prejudice, the defendant must wait for 5 years and be sure that the case has not re-filed at any court before applying for expungement. The petitioner must also not have any new cases in their record (be it a felony, misdemeanor, or major traffic violations). For felony charges that were dismissed with prejudice, the defendant must have waited 90 days after the case has been dismissed and also ensure that the case has not been re-filed. For cases that were dismissed after the completion of a drug court program, mental health court program, or any court-mandated deferred prosecution program, the defendant must wait 1 year after the completion of such a program before filing to expunge the record.
To file for an expungement, the petitioner will approach a circuit court in the county that the offenses were charged. It is not automatic that every application for expungement is granted by the court. The state has the right to appeal against it and the court will make the final decision.
Is Expungement The Same As Sealing Court Records In Alabama?
Sealing and expungement are quite different in the state of Alabama. While expungement means the erasing of a criminal record to make it look like it never happened, sealing a record only hides it from public inspection. Anybody with the right authorization may have access to a sealed record. Expungement erases the record with just a few still having a record of it. Once a court has ruled that a record be expunged, ALEA requires every criminal justice agency to submit every record they have regarding the expunged charge to them. Only a few logs or investigative files may be kept by the agencies.
How Long Does a Felony Stay on Your Record in Alabama?
Unless it is expunged, a felony record stays on the offender’s record forever. Only a record that has been expunged will be erased from a criminal record. The other grace, even though it is not as extensive as an expungement, a convicted felon may have to be pardoned by the state governor. This rarely happens in reality but if it does happen, both the pardon and the conviction will be on the criminal record. This may be useful in proving to future employers that the offender has been truly rehabilitated.
What is a Misdemeanor in Alabama?
The state of Alabama defines Misdemeanor in Section 13A–1–2(9) as those offenses that will be punished by a jail term for a period that should not exceed 1 year. They are not as weighty as felonies but are still crimes that go against the law. The Code of Alabama ranks offenses that are misdemeanors into classes according to the gravity of the offense and severity of the penalty to be served. The classes of Misdemeanors are:
- Class A Misdemeanors: Crimes in this class are to be punished by a jail term that should not exceed 1 year and/or a fine that should not be more than $6,000
- Class B Misdemeanors: Crimes that fall under this category are to receive a penalty of jail term not exceeding 6 months, or a fine that should not exceed $3,000, or both, as the court deems fit.
- Class C Misdemeanors: Crimes in this class are to be punished by jail term that should not exceed 3 months and/or a fine that should not be more than $500.
What are some examples of Misdemeanors in Alabama?
Examples of different misdemeanor offenses and the class they fall under are:
- Class A Misdemeanor:
- Fourth-degree theft (defined by Section 13A–8–5 as the theft of a property whose value does not exceed $500)
- Indecent exposure
- Possession of drug paraphernalia
- Sexual misconduct
- First-degree trespassing (defined by Section 13A–7–2 as knowingly entering and remaining in a dwelling)
- Class B Misdemeanors
- Resisting arrest
- Unlawful assembly
- Tampering with a witness
- Cruelty to animals
- Open house party
- Class C Misdemeanors
- Disorderly conduct
- Removing a shopping cart from shop premises
- Second-degree trespassing (defined by Section 13A–7–3 as the intentional entering and staying in a building or real estate that is enclosed or fenced)
- Public lewdness
Can I Get a Misdemeanor Removed from a Record in Alabama?
Currently, Alabama grants only those charged with misdemeanors the right to apply for the expungement of the record. Defendants of misdemeanor cases that were dismissed, those that were no-billed by a grand jury, and those who were found not guilty are also eligible to apply for expungement. Offenders that were convicted of misdemeanors do not have the right to apply for expungement.
For a misdemeanor that was dismissed without prejudice, the defendant must wait 2 years after the charges have been dismissed and it must be proven that the case has not been re-filed and there is no other conviction for any felony, misdemeanor or major violations in that 2 years before applying for expungement. For a defendant whose misdemeanor charge was dismissed with prejudice or found not guilty of the offense, there will be a 90-day waiting period before applying for expungement. The defendant must ensure that the case has not been re-filed within that period and there should be no new felony, misdemeanor, or major violation charge against the defendant.
Can a DUI Be Expunged in Alabama?
A DUI conviction cannot be expunged in the state of Alabama currently. Convictions are ineligible for expungement in Alabama. A DUI offender might get a little respite if the offense was committed when the offender was a minor. There is a possibility of the record being sealed and it will not be brought up later and used as a reason to increase the penalty for a future conviction.
The best-case scenario for the offender is to have the DUI case as merely a charge that was dismissed with or without prejudice, or for the defendant to be acquitted by the court or pray that the case gets no-billed by a grand jury. The charge may then be resolved like any other misdemeanor charge that was dismissed and then allow the defendant to file for expungement as applicable.
What constitutes an Infraction in Alabama?
Section 13A–1–2(16) of the Alabama code defines infractions (they are known as violations in Alabama) as any offense for which the maximum penalty should not exceed 30 days imprisonment. Alternatively, a fine not exceeding $200 may be charged either in place of the jail time or alongside a fixed jail term. Offenses that make up the category called Infractions are not ranked according to their severity as felony and misdemeanor are. They are minor crimes, mostly traffic-related, and are not as weighty as either a felony or a misdemeanor.
What are some examples of Infractions in Alabama?
Some examples of violations in Alabama include:
- Driving without a license
- Driving with a suspended license
- Driving without insurance
- Illegal U-turn
- Not stopping at a red light
- Failure to use a child restraint
- Speeding above the limit
- Illegal vehicle modifications
- Third-degree criminal trespass (defined in Section 13A–7–4 as intentionally entering and unlawfully remaining at a premises)
- Driving without using a seatbelt
- Not yielding right of way
- Improper passing
Can Infractions be Expunged from an Alabama Criminal Court Record?
Section 15–27–1 of the Code of Alabama explicitly included violations and even more particularly, traffic violations as one of the offenses whose charge records may be expunged. Convictions for committing these offenses are currently not eligible to be expunged but charges that were dismissed (with or without prejudice), charges that the defendant was found not guilty, and charges that have been no-billed by a jury may all be expunged.