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What Do You Do if You Are On Trial For a Crime in Alabama?

When charged with a crime in Alabama, the accused may exercise their right to retain legal counsel. Those who are financially incapable of hiring legal services will be provided at the expense of the state. Defendants are required to attend all pre-trial hearings and be informed of the prosecution’s evidence to build up a defense. Defendants are required to enter into a plea at the arraignment following the counsel of their attorney.

During the trial, the court must obey all court procedures and rules installed by the Alabama Judicial System. Accused persons must avoid behavior that might be disruptive to the court proceedings.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching more straightforward, as there is no geographic location limit, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile;
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved, including information such as the city, county, or state where that person resides.

Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

What Percentage of Criminal Cases go to Trial in Alabama?

In the year 2018, the Alabama annual court statistics report, published by the Alabama Administrative Office of Courts, stated that the total number of criminal cases filed at 90,431 and the total number of trials at 2,026. The percentage of criminal trials to criminal court filings was 0.97%.

When does a Criminal Defendant Have the Right to a Trial?

All criminal defendants in the state of Alabama have a right to a jury trial according to Rule 18.1 of the Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure. If the decision from a municipal or district court in the state is appealed to a circuit court, the defendant has the right to a new jury trial in the appellate court. For appealed cases, the appellant must include a request for a jury trial along with the appeal. If the suspect fails to demand trial by jury in the appeal submitted, they will waive the right to a jury trial.

A jury trial may not occur for defendants if the individual does not want a trial by jury. All felonies in the state of Alabama are prosecuted on indictment by the grand jury. Felonies are the only criminal crimes for which a jury trial is necessary; for crimes such as misdemeanors, jury trials have to be requested by the defendant promptly.

The offender has a right to a jury trial only during the trial hearing and at an appeal hearing in the circuit court—they cannot have a jury trial during the pre-trial hearings. Pre-trial hearings only include the initial appearance, the preliminary hearing, and the arraignment.

What are the Stages of a Criminal Trial in Alabama?

There are eight stages in an Alabama criminal trial. Where there is no jury trial, the jury selection stages and the jury deliberation stages will not be a part of the trial process.

  • Jury selection: The jury’s choice for a criminal trial is as per the provisions of Rule 18.4 of the Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure.
  • Swearing in of witnesses: The witnesses of both parties of the case are sworn in and required to say nothing but the truth during the trial.
  • Opening statements: The prosecution and the defense attorney are permitted to speak to state the defendant’s guilt or innocence.
  • Presentation of evidence: The prosecution lawyer is allowed to present the evidence, after which the defendant answers in defense.
  • Further arguments: This stage is dependent on the court’s discretion. The court will allow the prosecution attorney to present more evidence. The prosecution lawyer is not allowed to make further arguments if the defendant declines to continue the arguments.
  • Jury deliberation: The jury retreats to a chamber to review the arguments and evidence presented by both sides of the case.
  • Sentencing: The judge sentences the defendant based on the verdict given by the jury.
  • Appeal: An appeal to a higher court is possible if either side of the legal argument is dissatisfied with the court’s decision.

How Long Does it Take For a Case to Go to Trial in Alabama?

Defendants of a criminal charge have the right to a speedy trial as provided under Rule 8.1 of the Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure. However, depending on the considerations of the court, the right to a speedy trial may be affected by these factors:

  • If the defendant is in custody
  • The gravity of the offense charged
  • The complexities of the case

What Happens When a Court Case Goes to Trial in Alabama?

The court selects a jury after a probable cause has been found for a criminal case to move forward to trial. The jurors are examined by the court and the two attorneys on either side of the proceeding to determine if any juror is unfit to provide impartial judgment. The trial commences with the witnesses’ swearing-in and the charges against the defendant being read along with the defendant’s plea. Both sides of the case are permitted an opening statement on the details of the case.

The prosecution lawyer presents the evidence against the defendant, and the defendant showcases evidence in defense. The court may reopen the case for the prosecutor and the defendant to make further arguments. The jury then deliberates on the trial and delivers a unanimous verdict. If the defendant is found guilty, the judge sentences the defendant based on the jury’s decision and the issuance of sentences following Title 13A of the Code of Alabama. The defendant can choose to appeal the decision to the circuit court for a new trial.

Can you be Put on Trial Twice for the Same Crime in Alabama?

No, under the Fifth Amendment, the US Constitution ruled that the double jeopardy clause applies to all states through incorporation. The double jeopardy clause protects parties from being tried twice for the same crime to safeguard offenders’ lives and properties.

How Do I Lookup a Criminal Court Case in Alabama?

Criminal court cases heard in the district and circuit courts can be found online or through the Clerk of Court where the case hearing occurred. Interested persons will have to send a written request to the court clerk stating the requested records’ details. Criminal court cases that have appealed to the appellate courts can be accessed using the appellate courts’ online electronic system, and requesters can also visit the courts in person or send a mail request. Nevertheless, there are fees attached to making copies of the records for the requestor. Other third-party sites may also provide access to criminal court cases upon registration.

How to Access Electronic Court Records in Alabama

The Alabama Judicial System has two systems that allow electronic access to court records. One of the platforms provides only trial court records, files from the district courts, and the circuit courts. Searches on this system are by using the case number or name of the appropriate party. The repository also offers a case monitoring service for trial court cases. However, monetary payment is required to access the services on the database.

The second system allows access to appellate court records through Appellate Courts’ Online Information Service (ACIS). This electronic database provides access to court documents from the state’s appellate courts, such as the Supreme Court, the Court of Civil Appeals, and the Court of Criminal Appeals. Registration is required.

How Do I Remove Public Court Records in Alabama?

Alabama expungement law under Title 15 of Chapter 27 of the Code of Alabama allows persons with criminal cases to expunge selected records. Nevertheless, the Code does not apply to all criminal charges. Records expunged are no longer accessible to the public and do not show up on background checks. Expugnable charges are non-felony charges such as misdemeanors, violations, traffic violations, and municipal ordinance violations. Conditions for expungement include if;

  • The defendant was acquitted.
  • The court dismissed the charge with prejudice over two years ago, and the defendant has not committed any felony, misdemeanor, and traffic violation within those two years.
  • The charge was no-billed by a grand jury, which means there is not enough evidence to try the individual in court.

Non-violent felony charges also qualify to be expunged if the court dismissed the case after the petitioner completed a court deferred prosecution program. Persons who wish to expunge criminal records in Alabama must confirm if there is a provision under the law.

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