Monday, November 17, 2008

What...You Didn't Get the Memo?

My sister-in-laws jury trial was slated for today so I made the customary trip up to Ashland this morning to be with her in court. Turns out she won't come up for trial until tomorrow due to there being about 10 cases for jury trial this go round.

A cautionary word to any of my readers, who, god forbid, might ever get in trouble in Clay County, Alabama. GET A LAWYER FROM ANYWHERE BUT CLAY COUNTY! Even some kid fresh out of law school would be better than anything you might possibly hope to find in Ashland or Lineville Alabama. It's a great place. A beautiful place. It's my home....but without a doubt it has the worst judicial system and lawyers probably anywhere on earth. Your chances of getting a fair trial and competent legal representation would be much better in say....Saudi Arabia or China.

Case and point.

In 2006 the Alabama Legislature in conjunction with the Alabama Sentencing Commission, and the Alabama Department of Corrections implemented these things called Voluntary Sentencing Guidelines in an effort to ease prison overcrowding and make sentences for the same crimes more uniform across the state. The bill which made this law is SB231 and was sponsored by Senator Roger Smitherman. And, yes, they are voluntary but judges and prosecutors are strongly encouraged to implement them and the majority do. When judges depart from the guidelines they are asked to provide an explanation in writing to the Alabama Sentencing Commission.

One of the main things these guidelines did was change the marijuana sentencing laws. Before it passed this is how things worked in Alabama. If you were arrested with a little pot for personal use the first time it was a misdemeanor. If you were ever arrested again...even for a seed or a roach it was an automatic felony punishable by up to ten years in prison. Now a person has to be arrested four times for marijuana possession and accumulate points against them (just like with drivers license) before jail is even considered.

So, when this passed in 2006 you can bet every lawyer in the state as well as the judges got the memo. Except, of course, my sister-in-laws attorney, one John Keith Warren of Ashland, AL.

I asked my brother a couple of weeks ago to call the lawyer and ask why my SIL was being charged with first degree marijuana possession when this was only her second time being charged with possession and she only had four grams. I wrote down the Senate bill number and printed out some news articles about the sentencing guidelines as well as some things from the Alabama Sentencing Commission for him to show the lawyer. When I picked my brother up this morning I asked him what the lawyer said about the guidelines and he said....get this, make sure you're sitting down....

The million watt light bulb of a lawyer told my brother, "Those guidelines don't apply in Alabama."

What a complete fucking ignoramus, douche bag. I've got dog turds in my yard that are brighter than this guy and could defend my sister-in-law better. If the Alabama sentencing guidelines don't apply IN ALABAMA just where exactly the fuck do they apply? Mississippi? Hong Kong maybe?

These are the ALABAMA Sentencing Guidelines, after all. Passed by the Alabama Legislature, signed by Alabama Governor Bob Riley, supported by the Alabama Sentencing commission and the Alabama Bar Association and implemented voluntarily by the majority of Alabama Judges. But according to lawyer douche bag they don't apply in Alabama.

I didn't get a chance to talk to 'His Brilliance' today. I'm sure it would have been about as effective as trying to talk some sense into a bull elephant seal. However, since this was in Clay County I did get to have a couple of staring matches with Judge John Rochester and District Attorney Freddy Thompson. I won both, which is kind of surprising, since I haven't had to stare anyone down since the fourth grade. I thought I was rusty. Guess not.

Tune in tomorrow for round two. Hopefully I will come home and report that I have a new bull elephant seal skin coat.


Andrew in Alabama said...


You are awesome. I enjoy reading your blog, which I do regularly.

The sentencing guidelines won't affect what level of offense your SIL is charged with, but will instead affect the possible (recommended) punishment for said offense. A second possession for personal use is still, regrettably, a felony in Alabama. The guidelines did nothing to change that.

Loretta Nall said...

Thanks for reading Andrew and for clarification on what the sentencing guidelines do. Of course, if the lawyer claims they don't apply in Alabama then my SIL is screwed either way.

I think with the impending budget crisis in AL and the rest of the US that we might have a chance to get a serious decrim discussion going in the legislature this go round. Here's hoping.

Andrew in Alabama said...

I wouldn't hold my breath on decrim in Alabama... but we do have a real chance at passing an expungement statute, which will allow folks with some types of criminal records to have those records cleaned up.

Long overdue IMO, and will benefit tens of thousands throughout the state.

Loretta Nall said...

I supported Rep. Chris England on that bill last year. I am directly affected by it because I was charged but my case was dismissed after four years. However, it still shows up on my record so that when I travel to Canada it costs an extra thousand dollars to hire a Canadian Immigration attorney to do the paperwork that says I can enter the country.

I'm still somehwat optimistic about decrim. The legislatirs know it's time, the governor knows it's time and the prison commissioner knows its time...we just need that push.

Schnitzel_Republic said...

The key here for law change in funding. Once you sit down and figure what it costs to house a guy in a county jail (63 counties) and then the state facilities...then the lightbulb comes on and folks start to think about savings.

Lets be honest...Birmingham may be a 5-star economic disaster and require federal assistance, possibly up to $1 billion...there are still other Bama towns in the 4-star, 3-star and 2-star economic status. By the end of 2009...I'm expecting federal assistance in the $3 billion range for the entire state and massive state and county budget cuts...which will surprise most everyone.

Some smart folks ought to package up the cost of housing guys at the county level for each day and how affects each counties budget. For the dimwits who sit in'll be hard to argue finance if the numbers are right up front.

As for the dimwit lawyers of Bama...I would imagine that if a guy was fairly book-smart and never been to college...and studied a Bama law manual for a month....he'd pass the Bama law exam with little effort. That might say something about the quality of lawyers in the state and the necessity of attending six years of college. Not to knock any of you folks who wasted such time...but you could have done better watching Perry Mason's entire series.