Drug offenders face some of the harshest penalties in the American criminal justice system. There are many costly consequences to any drug charge – even if it is the first offense.
It is important that defendants have a criminal defense attorney who is experienced in drug offenses. Barclay Law has years of experience in protecting legal rights and ensuring a fair outcome in the criminal justice system for criminal defendants in and around the Birmingham area.
Alabama Sentencing for Drug Possession
The Code of Alabama statutes sets specific guidelines for the classification of drug offenses:
- Possession of a controlled substance listed on Schedules I through V is a Class D felony (see Code of Alabama §13A-12-212).
- Selling, furnishing, giving away, delivering, or distributing a controlled substance is a Class B felony. A defendant is also guilty of possession with intent to distribute if he or she possesses specified amounts of cocaine, morphine, opium, heroin, methamphetamines, or amphetamines (see Code of Alabama §13A-12-211).
- Possession of marijuana for personal use (“unlawful possession of marijuana in the second degree”) is a Class A misdemeanor (see Code of Alabama §13A-12-214). Possession for other than personal use is a Class C felony, and possession after a conviction for personal use is a Class D felony. These are both known as first degree marijuana possession (see Code of Alabama §13A-12-213).
The classification of the offense dictates the length of the defendant’s sentence:
- Class A misdemeanors are punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $6000.
- Class D felonies are punishable by a minimum prison sentence of 366 days, and a maximum of five years. The offenses can also be fined up to $7500.
- Class C felonies are punishable by a minimum prison sentence of 366 days, and a maximum of ten years. The offenses can also be fined up to $15,000.
- Class B felonies are punishable by a prison term of two to twenty years. The offenses can also be fined up to $30,000.
(See Code of Alabama §15-18-8.)
The Consequences of a Drug Conviction
Many criminal defendants are painfully unaware of the collateral consequences of a conviction for drug possession - even if it is a first offense. Job prospects are often severely limited after even a misdemeanor drug conviction. Nor are the consequences of a criminal records limited only to job opportunities. Housing, professional licensure, education, welfare benefits, military records, immigration status, the right to serve in public office, and social opportunities can all be limited by the nature of a drug conviction. Civil rights are also revoked automatically after a felony conviction. These include: the right to vote, the right to serve on a jury, and the right to possess a firearm.
Because a drug conviction can carry such devastating and long-lasting consequences, it is important to seek experienced legal counsel from the beginning of your case. Not only do defendants have a constitutional right to be represented by counsel, but the collateral consequences of a drug conviction can be mitigated with effective legal representation.