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Court Can't Deviate from Sentencing Standards In Clay County, Alabama


The idea of spending any time behind bars can be scary. For better or for worse, there are guidelines that dictate how long you can be sentenced for your crime, if convicted. The court generally uses “worksheets,” which take into account things like prior felony convictions to determine just how long of a jail sentence is appropriate.

In Duncan v. State of Alabama, which arose out of Clay County, Jeffery Duncan pled guilty to unlawful possession of marijuana in the second degree and unlawful possession of a controlled substance. Before Duncan had an actual sentencing hearing, Duncan was accepted into the Clay-Coosa Drug Court program.

Drug court requires submitting to drug tests, attending monitoring sessions, and complying with other terms instead of serving a jail sentence. However, over the course of four months, Duncan failed three drug tests, missed court and monitoring sessions, and failed to complete an assessment as directed by the court.

Because Duncan had failed to comply with drug court, the court ordered him to appear for sentencing. Duncan was then sentenced to 23 months’ imprisonment for the unlawful possession of marijuana charge; this sentence was suspended, and Duncan was placed on 2 years’ supervised probation. Duncan was also sentenced to 12 months in jail for his unlawful possession of a controlled substance charge. The court ordered the sentences to run concurrently. Duncan appealed.

Duncan argued that the 12-month jail sentence is improper because it goes against the presumptive sentencing standards the court is supposed to apply. The conviction for unlawful possession of a controlled substance is a Class D felony and on the circuit court’s “Drug Sentence Length Worksheet,” no prison is recommended based on Duncan’s lack of prior felony convictions. The Court held that the court’s imposition of a jail sentence was improper based on deviating from the sentencing presumptions. The Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the circuit court’s decision.

The main point here is that the sentencing standards are non-negotiable. The sentencing court did not have the authority to deviate from the sentencing standards just because Duncan failed to comply with the drug court program. This is important if you are involved in a criminal case; your attorney can also look at the sentencing worksheet and make sure the court does not deviate where it should not.

Having an experienced criminal law attorney on your side can be crucial in knowing all the facts during sentencing.

If you are involved in a criminal law case, contact INGRAM LAW LLC at (205) 335-2640 for an attorney with the experience and knowledge that can make all the difference.

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