Apprendi Applies in Alabama Criminal Sentence

Increase in Alabama Criminal Sentence Must Meet Apprendi Standard

The Alabama Supreme Court holds that any increase in a Alabama criminal sentence that produces a higher sentence is an element that must be proven by the State in a criminal case.  This decision brings Alabama into line with the United States Supreme Court Apprendi case.

In this case, the Defendant was convicted of trafficking in cocaine, and was sentenced to a 15 year prison term. The Alabama criminal sentence included an enhancement of five years for possessing a firearm during a trafficking offense. According to the defendant he was not notified of the enhancement, and the jury was never charged with a jury instruction that they were to consider the enhancement as an element of the offense.  The defendant filed an appeal with the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals and later with the Alabama Supreme Court claiming that the sentence violated the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000).  The Alabama Supreme Court decision held that where the enhancement increases the sentence, the State must prove the enhancement along with the elements of the offense.

A number of crimes in Alabama are subject to enhancements, particularly Alabama drug charges. Notably, the presence of a firearm in connection with drug charges many times results in enhancements.  Whether enhancements apply to a Alabama criminal sentence is sometimes difficult to determine. If you are facing a criminal case in Alabama, you should consult an Alabama criminal defense attorney. The attorneys at Bradford Ladner, LLP are experienced criminal defense attorneys who can assist you with any criminal matter.

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