Imagine acting in self-defense to protect yourself from an attack only to find yourself facing a charge of criminal assault in the second degree.
This is exactly what happened to a woman named Jennifer Watters in 2015. In an attempt to clear her name, Watters asked to have the court hold a pre-trial hearing to give her the change to explain she was acting in self defense.
The purpose of the pretrial hearing would determine if Watters was immune from prosecution, helping her avoid a lengthy lawsuit. However, the code section to which Ms. Watters cited her defense did not provide a procedural outline for how to claim the defense. Although she requested the pre-trial hearing, the trial court said they would consider her defense “in due course.”
The phrase “in due course” did not give Watters any specific timeline so Watters decided to appeal the trial court’s decision. By appealing, she hoped the Court of Civil Appeals would reverse the trial court and allow her to have the hearing. However, the Court of Civil Appeals also denied her motion to have a pre-trial hearing. So again, Watters appealed, but this time to the Supreme Court of Alabama.
The Supreme Court of Alabama decided differently than the trial court and the Court of Civil Appeals. Instead, they found that a defendant, like Watters, is entitled to have a pre-trial hearing on the issue of self-defense. This gives defendants a chance to prove their claim to the Court so that they did not have to endure both the time and cost associated with a trial.
This case is extremely important for people that have been charged with a crime that want to claim self-defense. The pre-trial hearing gives you an opportunity for the charges to be dismissed without having to go to trial.
If you are facing criminal charges, call Birmingham Criminal Attorney Joseph A. Ingram, at (205) 656-0044., an attorney with vast experience in criminal defense that can ensure your right to a pre-trial hearing is protected.