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Understanding Alabama Felony Charges

For someone charged with a crime in Alabama, it matters what that crime is as well as its classification. The consequences of a conviction will vary depending on the classification of the crime. A strong, strategic defense is the best means to avoid a conviction or, alternatively, accept a plea deal in the defendant's favor.

At Segal and Segal, our criminal defense lawyers in Huntsville and Madison County investigate each case with care and strategize accordingly. Our legal team will help you understand the charges against you, possible outcomes, and how we will move forward. Contact us at (256) 533-4529 to schedule a consultation and learn more about any alleged criminal charges filed against you and how our criminal defense attorney will proceed with your case.

Felony Charges in Alabama

A felony is punishable by more than one year in state or federal prison. Felony charges can be brought by local, state, or federal prosecutors and are processed through state or federal courts, depending upon who brought the charges.

Felonies are crimes against people and/or property.

Examples of felony crimes against people include:

  • Rape
  • Kidnapping
  • Aggravated assault
  • Human trafficking
  • Armed robbery
  • Extortion
  • Child pornography
  • Manslaughter
  • Murder

Examples of felony crimes against property include:

  • Theft First and Second Degree
  • Burglary
  • Arson
  • Forgery
  • Embezzlement

Felony Classifications in Alabama

Federal and State governments distinguish crimes as felonies or misdemeanors, with felonies as the more severe category. Within these two categories, felonies and misdemeanors are further classified according to severity. Alabama uses an alphabetical (A, B, C, D)  system to distinguish the severity of the felony system.

States typically have three classes of felonies while some states use up to ten. Either way, the purpose is simple: to assign punishment orderly and equitably.

An Example of Felony Classifications

In states using three levels, you might find the following:

  • Class A. This category is home to the most serious felonies, like murder, arson, armed robbery, first-degree rape, or first-degree sodomy. Drug trafficking, first-degree domestic violence, and first-degree kidnapping are also class-A felonies in Alabama. Punishment is the most severe, ranging from ten years to life in prison and/or a fine of up to $ 60,000 and even more for drug trafficking.
  •  Class B. Punishment is less than class A felonies but 256 479 4529more than Class C or D felonies. These felonies include manslaughter, drug distribution,  assault-second-degree, domestic violence second-degree, and various other crimes. Punishment ranges from a minimum sentence of two years to a prison sentence of up to 20 years and/or a fine of up to $20,000 or more.
  • Class C. This category is home to felonies considered less severe than A or B felonies. Punishment can include a prison sentence of one year, one day to ten years, and/or a fine of up to $15,000.some examples include sexual abuse, interference with custody, and possession of marijuana for other than personal use.
  • Class D. This is the lowest level felony in Alabama. The maximum sentence is five years or less than one year and one day in the state penitentiary and may include a fine not to exceed $7500.00. Class D felonies include possession of a controlled substance, fraudulent use of a credit or debit card, theft of property with a value of more than $500 and less than $1500.00, and possession of marijuana by someone with a prior possession of marijuana conviction. This list is not exhaustive; many other crimes are class D felonies in Alabama.

Differences between Alabama Misdemeanor and Felony Charges

The differences between misdemeanors and felonies are stark, so you do not want to assume that a criminal charge is like any other one in Alabama. Some of the differences involve procedures and the extent of punishment.

  • Constitutional rights. A conviction for a felony offense can impact a felon's constitutional rights, particularly regarding gun ownership and voting.If you become a convicted felon, you may even lose your right to hold public office.
  • Legal procedures. Given the potential consequences of a felony conviction, the legal procedures around arresting, charging, and prosecuting someone for a felony offense are usually more immediate and complex than those for misdemeanors. For example, a felony warrant could lead to an immediate arrest, while a warrant related to a misdemeanor may not require an immediate arrest. Also, federal felonies require grand jury indictments, while some states impose the same requirement for felony charges. The same is not true for misdemeanors.
  • Punishment. The penalties for a felony are harsher than misdemeanor convictions. Felonies often require more than one year in prison up to life and a fine as high as $60,000. 
  • Recidivism. Repeat felony offenders often face increasingly harsher penalties, including automatic life sentences, in light of their criminal history. 
  • Expungement. Felonies can be more difficult to have expunged than misdemeanors.

Can a Felony be Reduced to a Misdemeanor in Alabama?

Because convictions of felonies result in higher penalties and collateral consequences, there are times when having the felony reduced to a lesser offense, like a misdemeanor, can improve the outcome of the case. The process and potential ways to do this may vary according to the specifics of your case.

Generally, at least one of the following could apply to your unique situation:

  • Plea deal. Through negotiations, you could get a felony reduced to a misdemeanor by pleading guilty to a lesser offense, also called plea bargaining.
  • Diversion programs. In some felony cases, you could participate in a pretrial diversion program, and upon completion of it, the felony charge will be reduced. These diversion programs are often available for drunk driving, drug possession, domestic violence, and shoplifting charges.
  • Probation. In some cases where a defendant is punished with probation and not prison. 
  • If you want to know more about getting a felony conviction reduced to a misdemeanor, it is important to consider all the possible outcomes with your criminal defense lawyer. At Segal and Segal, our criminal defense attorney will weigh the pros and cons so that you can make an informed decision about the direction of your case.

When Do You Need a Criminal Defense Attorney in Alabama? 

A criminal conviction, especially for a felony offense, can have long-lasting impacts on your life, extending past any custodial sentence you may receive. You are not required to retain a criminal defense lawyer, but it is highly advisable. The laws, procedures, and overall experience can be confusing and overwhelming. You need a criminal defense lawyer to help you through it because mistakes can be fatal to your case.

You have a constitutional right to an attorney to help you defend against criminal allegations. Still, only indigent defendants who are quite poor are typically awarded an appointed lawyer or a public defender. Everyone else must obtain a private criminal defense attorney. It can be expensive, but it is better than the alternative. That said, with the right attorney, it will save you much more in the long run.

Here are a few reasons to schedule a consultation with our criminal defense office in Huntsville and Madison County.

  1. Investigation. An attorney will investigate your case as well as collect and review evidence.
  2. Strategy. Whether to negotiate a favorable plea deal or argue your defense before a jury, an attorney will use strategy to obtain the best outcome.
  3. Resources. A criminal defense attorney typically already has the resources necessary to competently represent a client, including a network of experts upon which to call if needed.
  4. Knowledge. Attorneys know the court system, the judges, the procedures, and more, which is valuable information needed for a successful criminal defense.
  5. Rights. An attorney can identify whether any constitutional rights have been violated and file a motion to respond accordingly. Throughout the criminal proceedings, your attorney will also ensure your rights are upheld, and a fair trial is given.

Our criminal defense lawyers at Segal and Segal will investigate thoroughly, strategize effectively, and uphold your rights and integrity.

Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney in Huntsville and Madison County Today

Segal and Segal will protect your rights and help you navigate the criminal justice system. We aim to secure the best possible outcome, given the facts and circumstances of your felony charge. Contact us today via the online form or at (256) 479-4529 to schedule a consultation.


Segal & Segal, LLC
706 Madison Street SE
Huntsville, AL 35801
(256) 533-4529
(256) 533-1678 (fax)