Alternative Sentencing in Alabama Drug Cases
Any user-quantity of drugs, regardless of the classification and whether it is marijuana, heroin, LSD, or cocaine, the system does not delineate. People are not excluded from participating in a drug court type program based on the type of drug. The system does delineate based on the weight. For instance, someone with pounds of marijuana is probably not going to get in a drug court program. They are going to be prosecuted on a trafficking or a distribution case. When talking about decriminalization, it is decriminalization on a user basis, not only dealer basis. With this in mind, it is important to consult with a drug lawyer to discuss what penalties an individual may face and whether an alternative sentence is possible.
The Alabama legislature has passed some laws that authorize prosecuting authorities, and that includes municipal prosecutors as well as the elected district attorneys, to create diversion type programs. This is true whether it is drug possession or otherwise, but there is a definite link between drug addiction and the commission of other types of crimes, especially property-type crimes, like burglaries, car thefts, and car burglaries.
Many of the district attorneys will also have a program that encompasses those types of charges that will also include drug treatment. They are trying to get to the root cause of why these crimes are being committed. They have the discretion based on laws in Alabama to create alternative sentencing programs to help people. It decriminalizes those types of charges. It is very beneficial to the accused, because if they do everything to get their case dismissed and they have lead a drug-free life for a time period and hopefully will continue to do so.
There is some recognition based on the rapid increase in the number of drug cases that are being docketed and there is a need to address the concerns of the growing number people who seem to have addiction problems. There are some drug court programs and diversion type programs that people can elect to take. The prosecutor exercises discretion by creating a program and some requirements, primarily that a person remains drug and alcohol-free over a time period.
Secondly, that they do not re-offend during the time that they are in a program like that, they not get recharged with any type of criminal offense, they do community service, they do random drug and alcohol screening, and they attend a rehabilitative alternative sentencing programs in Alabama like a drug education program. They may make a commitment to be drug and alcohol-free over a time period and elect to continue to be a drug and alcohol-free after they have graduated from the program and have the case dismissed, which is one way Alabama decriminalized tendencies for drug possession cases are becoming prominent.
Drug Court Programs
The fact that there has been an influx of drug cases being docketed that the courts have recognized, as well as efforts up to that point, can prove ineffective, which is why diversion programs are another good option in the case of someone’s drug possession case. There are drug court programs and diversion programs, which are designed to help people who want to be helped. It is a discretionary program and not everybody gets it. It is up to the DA or the prosecutor to offer it.
Not everybody wants to participate in it, because there are some requirements. There are some expectations that have to be met and one of those is that they remain drug and alcohol-free. A lot of people do not want to be subjected to that type of limitation. However, the Alabama alternative sentencing programs are beneficial to the accused, because they have a 100% guarantee of a favorable outcome on their case if they complete everything. If they jump through all the hoops and do all that they are required to do, the charge is dismissed.
The federal government provides funding for alternative sentencing programs for those individuals charged with drug offenses, and they have proven to be very successful. There is some recidivism. There are sometimes people who complete these programs and then re-offend, but overall it proved an effective way of decriminalization. There are a large number of people for whom it is behavior modification. They learn from the experience.
These alternative sentencing drug programs in Alabama are successful because the large percentages of people who complete them do not re-offend. The people that do are people that have perhaps a longer term or addiction problem that need to be addressed, and can be addressed with these particular programs and an attorney’s attention.
Jefferson County judges are patient and motivated about helping people, especially people who are coming back the second time. It is not that this judge is being lenient with those people, but trying to help them in a constructive way by taking a look at their lives and asking why they are here again. If the person keeps doing what they are doing, they will keep getting what they get and that is if a person keeps buying and using drugs, a person is probably going to keep getting arrested and going to jail. It is important to have someone that wants to get at the root problem, help people recognize why they have addictions, tell them what can they do, and give them tools to remain drug-free.
Factors Towards Leniency
They are not necessarily limited to first offenders, but that is a large target group of people who have not been in trouble before and would generally lean towards alternative sentencing in Alabama. People who have small quantities of drugs are going to be one of the criteria determining leniency, as well as a person’s commitment. Attorneys tell clients it is their decision to make as to whether they wish to enter this program. If they do, they need to do so with a positive attitude, with the recognition that they have to follow the rules, not be resentful about it, and not to feel like they should not have to, but go with a willing attitude.