In Alabama, as in most states, a crime is treated as a misdemeanor if it could carry a sentence of a year or less in county jail. More serious crimes (felonies) are punishable by more than a year in state prison. Offenses that are less serious than misdemeanors (known as violations in Alabama) may be punished by no more than 30 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $200.
In addition to the general distinction between felony and misdemeanor offenses, Alabama categorizes misdemeanors into three different classes, from the most to least serious: Class A, B, and C. If you're convicted of a misdemeanor, you could be sentenced to jail (or hard labor for the county) and/or ordered to pay a fine. Each misdemeanor class generally carries a maximum jail sentence and fine, as follows:
Instead of the maximum fine listed for each misdemeanor class, the judge may order you to pay up to double the value of what you gained from the crime or what the victim lost. (Ala. Code §§ 13A-5-2, 13A-5-7, 13A-5-12 (2020).)
Alabama requires a minimum sentence of three months for any misdemeanor that's motivated by the victim's ethnicity, religion, national origin, or disability. (Ala. Code § 13A-5-13 (2020).)
When you're convicted of a misdemeanor in Alabama, the judge may suspend part of your sentence and place you on probation, with conditions. As an alternative to jail, you might also be considered for punishment in a community corrections program, as long as you haven't shown a pattern of violent behavior in the past. (Ala. Code §§ 15-18-8, 15-8-175 (2020).)
The following list contains just a few examples of crimes in each class of misdemeanor under Alabama law.
(Ala. Code §§ 13A-6-22, 13A-6-132, 13A-6-142, 13A-6-242, 13A-8-5, 13A-8-10.3, 13A-11-241, 13A-12-6, 13A-12-214 (2020).)
(Ala. Code §§ 13A-6-90.1, 13A-6-23, 13A-8-121, 13A-10-41 (2020).)
(Ala. Code §§ 13A-7-3, 13A-8-61, 13A-8-64, 13A-11-7, 13A-11-8 (2020).)
In general, you can't be charged with a misdemeanor more than one year after the time of the alleged crime (Ala. Code § 15-3-2 (2020)). (Learn more about the criminal statutes of limitations in Alabama.)
Even though misdemeanors are less serious than felonies, a conviction for a misdemeanor could still create a lot of problems in your life. If you have to spend any time in jail, for example, you could potentially lose your job or housing. You should always consult an experienced Alabama criminal defense lawyer if you have been charged with a crime, have been approached by the police as a target of an investigation, or need legal advice. Only a knowledgeable attorney who has dealt with local law enforcement and prosecutors can give you advice about your case, protect your rights, and help you get the most favorable outcome possible under the circumstances.
Alabama could change its laws at any time. To check the current version of any statute mentioned in this article, click on the link to the Code of Alabama on the Library of Congress Guide to Law Online. But court opinions affect how these laws are interpreted and applied—another good reason to consult a lawyer if you're concerned about actual or potential criminal charges.