The Alabama Sentencing Guidelines Apply to Any Sentencing After October 1, 2013

In an October 3, 2014 decision from the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, the Court of Appeals held that the Alabama Sentencing Guidelines applied to cases where the offense was committed prior to the effective date of the presumptive guidelines, but where the sentencing was conducted after October 1, 2014. The presumptive Alabama Sentencing Guidelines became effective on October 1, 2014.

In Clark v. State, 2014 WL 4957733, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals held that the trial court was bound to use the presumptive sentencing guidelines in a case where the offense took place in December 2011, prior to the effective date of the presumptive guidelines.  The Court reasoned:

“…the instructions for the presumptive sentencing standards mandate that the sentencing standards for offenses covered under the “Property A” worksheet and the drug-offense worksheet become presumptive for all “applicable cases sentenced on or after October 1, 2013.” In other words, on or after October 1, 2013, if a sentencing event occurs for an offense that is included on the Property A or drug-offense worksheet, the circuit court is required to sentence the offender under the presumptive sentencing standards, regardless of when that offense was committed.

“Because the legislature intended that the presumptive sentencing standards apply to all “applicable cases sentenced on or after October 1, 2013,” the circuit court erred when it did not sentence Clark pursuant to the presumptive sentencing standards.”

Generally, a criminal case is governed by the law in effect as of the date of the commission of the offense, meaning that a defendant is sentenced under the laws of sentencing at the time of the offense.  However, in this case, the Court found that the Alabama Sentencing Guidelines contained sufficient evidence of a legislative intent that the presumptive sentencing guidelines apply even to cases already underway when the guidelines were adopted.


Alabama Sentencing Commission

Alabama Sentencing Guidelines – The Basics



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