Criminal Law Questions? Ask a Criminal Lawyer.
Hello and thanks so much for choosing this forum to pose your important legal question. I will do my best to give you some honest and accurate guidance as I answer your question.
Class B misdemeanor is punishable by up to six months imprisonment in the county or municipal jail, or a fine up to $1000, or both, pursuant to Alabama Code § 13A-5-7(a)(2) and Alabama Code § 13A-5-12(a)(2).
If you are indeed being charged with a violation of this statutory provision, you have a right to the appointment of counsel if you are indigent. This is addressed by Alabama Code §§ 15-21-1 through 15-12-46 in addition to being a right afforded to you by the United States Constitution. This applies even to municipal courts, subject to the administrative supervision of the presiding circuit judge. You also have the right to a trial by jury, even in a misdemeanor case, provided you make a timely demand in writing.
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Hello again and thanks for writing back. I will be glad to comment further.
All that is required is a signed demand, and it need not be anything fancy or terribly formal. Just a signed and date one sentence written statement is sufficient -- such as "Pursuant to Alabama Code § 15-14-30, I, the undersigned defendant in this criminal case, hereby respectfully XXXXX XXXXX trial by jury." Alabama Code § 15-14-30 sets for the procedure and timing. I have realized that the links I provided for the statutory citations take you just to the table of contents page. I am not sure what I did wrong, but I apologize for my oversight. I have listed the proper citations (below) for your reference.
Alabama Code § 13A-11-14(b)
Alabama Code § 13A-5-7(a)(2)
Alabama Code § 13A-5-12(a)(2)
Alabama Code §§ 15-12-1 through 15-12-46
Alabama Code § 15-14-30
I hope this is of some more help and that things work out for you in this matter.
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The statutes are a bit confusing on this point. In Alabama, a district court is a court of record, and on appeal to a circuit court Alabama Code § 12-12-71 affords the right to trial de novo and a jury. In the district court, Alabama Code § 12-12-3 does not afford such a right. I believe that this approach runs afoul of the United States Supreme Court ruling in Alabama v. Shelton, 535 U.S. 654 (2002). The correct focus is not so much on the forum (the name of the court) but rather on whether the charge subjects the criminal defendant to confinement, which is clearly the case here.
As a practical matter, it will take skilled criminal defense counsel to advance and properly frame such an argument. As things stand now, if you lose at the district court level your remedy is to seek redress in the circuit court through a trial de novo. This means a brand new trial -- not merely an appeal -- and you essentially start all over again as if the first trial had never taken place. So, it boils down to this. Given the current wording of the statues, I expect the local authorities to deny you a right to trial by jury in district court. Challenging this will take legal representation, which may not be economically feasible.
I hope this is of some more help and that you receive some appropriate action here.