Aggravating Factors of Alabama Drug Penalties
There are several factors that can aggravate the drug penalties a person faces in Alabama. The first factor is the quantity of the drug a person is found to be in possession of. An example would be a person in possession of a small amount of cocaine or crack cocaine would only be facing a simple possession charge that would probably be dismissed through drug court. However, if that same person had between 8 to 28 grams of the same substance, they will be facing an intent to distribute charge with higher penalties. Finally, if they had 28 grams or higher, they could face trafficking charges so that same person could go from more likely than not dismissal of the charge up to a minimum mandatory prison sentence.
Another aggravating factor of Alabama drug penalties is the type of drug the person is found to be in possession of. Marijuana cases tend to not being prosecuted as aggressively and have more drug court options versus scheduled controlled substances which are always prosecuted as felony charges.
The crime committed is a third factor that is considered in a how harshly a person is penalized, meaning that if a person has other crimes along with the possession, such as a firearm, the enhancement of the statute goes into effect and the person is disqualified from certain types of diversionary or drug court programs.
Another factor that can influence how harshly a drug case is penalized would be a person’s criminal record. Prior felonies would increase a person’s classification under the Habitual Offender Act or sentencing guidelines and will many times disqualify them from any type of diversion or drug court program.
The location of the drug offense is another factor that is considered in how harshly a person is penalized. If someone is within a three-mile radius of the school, they face a minimum mandatory five years if convicted of a drug offense.
In Alabama, the severity of the potential penalties for drug offenses does change from first-time offenders to repeat offenders. The reason for this is that many first-time offender programs, such as drug court or diversionary programs, are not available to those with prior drug-related offenses.
Additionally, Alabama has a habitual offender statute where the range of penalties one faces is increased to the next felony classification level if they have a prior felony on their record. This affects sentencing guideline calculations as well.
Sentencing is increased based on prior offenses with possession of marijuana for personal use. There is only one opportunity for a misdemeanor and if a person is caught the second or subsequent time, it is automatically a felony possession.
On a first-time drug offense in Alabama, a person would more likely than not be able to negotiate for some type of diversion or drug court plea, meaning their charge could ultimately be dismissed. In the worst case scenario, if a first-time offender is convicted, they face only probation.
However, for repeat offenses, these types of options are typically not on the table, and the person faces either a plea that could include a jail sentence, or to go to trial.
Working with an Attorney
There are several ways a person can become familiar with potential penalties for drug crimes in Alabama and factors that aggravate them. The easiest is to consult with an experienced drug defense lawyer. An attorney can help to lessen penalties in numerous ways for drug crimes in Alabama. First, an attorney can investigate the underlying charge for any defenses for mitigation issues as well is to investigate whether cooperation is an option to mitigate penalties or have a dismissal agreement put into place, and then take the case forward to a trial if need be, many times it will lessen penalties and have a better plea offer put on the table.