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Do first-time drug offenders in Alabama go to jail?

If you're charged with possession of a controlled substance or possession of marijuana, and it's your first offense, there is a good chance that you can avoid jail and, possibly, a conviction even if you're guilty.

There are two reasons for this. The first has to do with how Alabama sentences first-time drug offenders. The second reason is that many first-time drug offenders can avoid any conviction by completing a counseling program.

First, let's talk about how Alabama sentences first-time drug offenders.

Alabama has sentencing guidelines. These guidelines have a prison in/out worksheet. A mathematical calculation is done based on your charge and other factors such as prior convictions.

A person who scores eight points or above typically receives an actual prison sentence. Just remember the hateful eight.

A person charged with possession who has no other criminal background typically will score only one point, which means that person wouldn't be sentenced to an actual term of imprisonment.

This doesn't mean the person couldn't have a sentence involving prison. It means the prison sentence would be suspended or held over the person's head. So that person would not serve any time in prison as long as they behaved and complied with whatever conditions the judge imposes.

If somebody doesn't do what the judges told them to do, the judge can make them serve the previously suspended sentence.

If you plead guilty, you will have a conviction.

In Alabama, under present law, that conviction follows you for the rest of your life.

While having a conviction that does not involve prison is better than having a conviction that does, it's always best to avoid a conviction.

Thankfully, for first-time drug offenders, avoiding a conviction is often not difficult because most courts offer some counseling program as an alternative way of resolving the case. These programs are done in various ways. If you complete the counseling program, your case is dismissed without a conviction.

Once a case is dismissed, you won't have a conviction, but you will have an arrest record. An arrest record can hurt you if you're job hunting and can hurt you in other ways. Fortunately, Alabama has an expungement law, where a person can ask a judge to have their arrest record erased.