The Criminal Process in Alabama

This past September, police arrested Deon “D.J.” Johnson, one of our state’s top 15 high school football players, on rape charges.  Unfortunately, the talented athlete’s behavior landed him in the Alabama justice system rather than on the playing field.  D.J. now joins the infamous ranks of more than 190,000 people arrested in Alabama every year.

The criminal process can be terrifying, especially for a first-timer.  Knowing what to expect helps to relieve some of that anxiety, and may assist in assuring that your rights are preserved.  Alabama Code Title 15 sets forth the laws and procedures for processing those accused of crimes:

  • Booking.  Police take you to county or city jail, where your mug shot and fingerprints are taken.  You may also be strip searched and subjected to a medical examination.
  • Arraignment.  Your first court appearance at your arraignment, you are informed of the charges against you and your bail is set.  If you have been charged with a felony, you are advised of your right to request a preliminary hearing.
  • Preliminary hearing.  This hearing involves the examination and cross-examination of witnesses and determines whether or not there is probable cause for you to be indicted, or whether the case against you should be dismissed or reduced to a misdemeanor charge.
  • Grand jury. If probable cause is shown, or if a preliminary hearing is not requested, the case is sent to a grand jury to determine if there is probable cause to issue an indictment.
  • Circuit court arraignment. If the grand jury issues an indictment, your case is sent to circuit court.  At this point, your attorney meets with the prosecutor to see if a plea bargain is available or if your case goes to trial.
  • Trial. The trial involves a jury, or if both sides agree, a bench trial is held with the judge deciding the verdict without a jury.
  • Sentencing.  If the court returns a guilty verdict, the judge determines the sentence.  Fines, probation, community service, jail time and/or restitution to victims may be imposed.
  • Appeal.  You have 14 or 42 days to appeal conviction, depending on whether you have been convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony.

The assistance of an experienced attorney is crucial throughout the criminal process.  Our firm has represented clients for a wide variety of crimes in both federal and state court. If you or someone close to you has been arrested, call our office immediately.