What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor?

U.S. jurisdictions generally distinguish between felonies and misdemeanors. A class of minor offenses (more commonly referred to as violations) may be described as petty offenses or quasi-crimes like traffic offenses is also recognized. These last offenses are created by local ordinance, and the requirement of trial by jury does not apply.

In U.S. law, the classification of a crime as a felony or misdemeanor is ordinarily determined by the penalties attached to the offense. A felony in Alabama is typically defined as a crime punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than one year and one day.

Misdemeanors are often defined as offenses punishable only by fines or by terms of imprisonment in local or county jails for up to 12 months.

A consequence of the conviction of a felony rather than a misdemeanor is that the offender may lose some of his civil rights like the to right to vote, the right to possess a handgun, the right to carry a concealed weapon, and in some cases the loss of the ability to get student loans or live in government housing.

What to expect if you are arrested.

If you are arrested for a crime you can expect the following events to occur:

  • You will be handcuffed and you will be taken to jail (either the City Jail or the County Jail depending on the charge)
  • You will be booked (your picture taken, fingerprinted, and strip searched)
  • You will have to post bail to get out of jail
  • You can post a cash bond (the entire amount of bail required), or
  • You can use a Bonding Company (pay a premium usually 10% of the bail required), or
  • You can put up a property bond (you must produce your tax assessment for the real estate you are using and the value of that real estate must usually equal 2½ times the amount of bail required)

What happens after you get out of jail.

Once you post bail and you are released, you must begin making some decisions regarding your criminal matter(s). If you are charged with a felony crime, you are entitled to a Preliminary Hearing. The Preliminary Hearing must be requested in writing within 30 days of your arrest. A Preliminary Hearing is simply a "probable cause" hearing where the State through the District Attorney will call witnesses to testify before a District Court Judge to the facts of your case. The testimony is generally sketchy and general in terms, but will contain enough information to allow the District Judge to make a decision whether the case should be bound over the County Grand Jury for further consideration. You do not have to testify at this hearing, and you or your attorney can cross exam each of the State's witnesses. You can also subpoena witnesses to testify on your behalf. The District Judge can dismiss your case if he finds insufficient probable cause. If the case is dismissed, and you are in Jail, you will be released. If you are out on bond, your bail-bond is released. In many cases, the District Attorney will send a dismissed case to the Grand Jury for their consideration. If you are indicted (true bill), you will be arrested again with the indictment, and you will have to post another bail to get out of jail.

If your case is "bound over" to the Grand Jury, the Judge makes a finding of probable cause that there is enough reason to believe that a crime occurred. The Grand Jury is simply a vehicle or means to get a criminal matter to a jury trial. The Grand Jury will hear testimony from the State's witnesses and make a determination whether the case should be "true billed" or "indicted" -- allowing the matter to go to trial before a jury; or, whether the case should be "no billed" -- dismissed for the failure to provide sufficient evidence of a crime.

What happens if you are indicted by a Grand Jury?

You will have to decide whether you want to represent yourself (Pro Se), and ask the court to appoint you an attorney because you cannot afford to hire one, or whether you want to retain an attorney to represent you at the upcoming hearings.

What to expect from your Attorney.

One of my many duties as your lawyer would be to ensure that each of these possibilities is explored and investigated to the fullest.

  • Dismissal of the charges,
  • Application for a Diversion Program,
  • Entering into a plea agreement that you chose to accept, or
  • Taking your matter to trial.


Working on any one of these possibilities affects the others. For example, careful preparation for a trial can expose flaws and weaknesses in a case, leading to a dismissal or a very favorable plea offer.

Ultimately, you as the accused need to have all these aspects pursued before you make any decisions that may alter your life. You need to be confident that you are fully informed and educated about your chances, and the risks involved in your specific case. Only then will you be in a position to adequately evaluate your options. In most cases the assistance of an experienced trial lawyer is essential.

If you need a lawyer to prove your innocence or achieve the best possible outcome in your case, you will need a lawyer with more than just experience and legal knowledge. You will need a trial lawyer talented in the art of persuasion. If you are looking for an aggressive lawyer, I certainly have that covered. But if you want to prevail in front of a jury, you will need a lawyer who is much more than just aggressive. Winning requires artful lawyering, clever intelligence, common sense, tact, and a profound understanding of the deepest levels of psychological persuasion. A good lawyer wins an argument. A great lawyer wins an argument before one exists. An exceptional lawyer can win an argument without letting the opposition ever knowing they differed. Choosing the right lawyer may affect the rest of your life, so take your time and don't be afraid to ask questions.

What can my clients expect?

  • Reasonable affordable fees
  • Personal accessibility and prompt communication
  • Careful analysis of all evidence
  • Protection of your rights
  • Persistence in negotiating with the prosecutor
  • Excellence in trial
  • Devotion to your cause

Do I need an Attorney?

No. If you are charged with a crime, you need a good criminal lawyer. There are some things that you will encounter great difficulty doing for yourself in the criminal justice system.

Many times I have had the opportunity to observe cases where the person accused of a crime attempted to represent themselves without a lawyer. Pro se legal representation refers to the instance of a person representing himself or herself without a lawyer in a court proceeding. Pro se is a Latin phrase meaning "for oneself". Imagine trying to carefully strategize and win a game of chess when you don't even know the rules. That is what you can expect if you go to court without an attorney.

Can't I negotiate with the DA without a lawyer?

There are many important aspects of your criminal case that you can be crippled by attempting to handle the case by yourself without a good trial lawyer. The first aspect you are limited by is your ability to negotiate. The reason why a prosecutor won't negotiate with you is that you simply don't possess the credibility to sit down with an adverse lawyer and discuss the merits of how your case will be viewed by a judge or jury. The prosecutor knows that you don't know what you are doing. The prosecutor is not going to haggle over legal issues with a non-lawyer, let alone the accused defendant. You don't have the respect that is earned by the fact that you can go to trial and win.

Prosecutors can be very cynical. In my experience, one of the best ways to get a prosecutor to listen is to convince them that there is a real risk that they may not be able to win at trial. For legal reasons a judge may not let them introduce certain evidence at trial, or an element of the crime charged may be weak. A prosecutor is much more apt to acknowledge these potential problems in your case if they are brought to the prosecutor's attention by an experienced trial lawyer who has earned their respect.

The second aspect that you are severely limited by when you aren't represented by a good criminal lawyer is the ability to effectively present your case and prevail at trial. If you want to win at trial, you need a good criminal lawyer. All the evidence in your favor does little good if you can't get it admitted. You wouldn't go to a professional boxing match thinking you could climb into the ring, throw a lucky punch and walk away with a title belt. The reality is that you would probably walk away in need of medical attention, if you walked away at all. Attempting to try a criminal case where your freedom is at stake without a good trial lawyer may end very badly for you. There is an old saying that gets kicked around courtrooms: "Anyone who represents himself in court has a fool for a client and an ass for an attorney."

There are so many facets of a criminal case that a good trial lawyer can help you with. I have explained only two. When you, or someone you love, are facing criminal charges it is also of great value to have the peace of mind that your case, or your loved one's case, is being handled by an experienced professional who can achieve the best possible result.

What am I facing?

Chances are if you are reading this, you or someone you know, has just been charged with a crime. The first reaction for most people is fear of the unknown. Whether you or someone you love was taken into custody or issued a summons to appear in court, you are now entering the unfamiliar world of the criminal justice system. Your freedom or the freedom of a loved one is at stake. You probably have many questions. Are you, or someone you love going to be forever branded a criminal? Will you go to jail or worse yet prison? Will you lose your job, your license, or everything you have worked for? What can be done?

Many crimes in Alabama require mandatory incarceration and fines. It is essential for your peace of mind to understand what you are, or are not, facing in your case. Only an experienced trial lawyer who is knowledgeable in the law and experienced in dealing with the varied policies of different prosecutorial agencies can help you understand what you are facing. There are many factors that can affect the range of punishment you or your loved one is facing including:

  • The number and nature of the charges
  • The dates the alleged offenses took place
  • The age of the alleged victim(s)
  • Whether a weapon or dangerous instrument was involved
  • Whether the accused has prior convictions
  • Whether the accused was on probation, parole or release
  • Many other factors

What will it cost?

Depending on the seriousness of the crime you are charged with, the most it will ever cost you is your life. Being convicted of a crime can result in the loss of your very freedom. It can also cost your career, your house, family relationships and affect your entire future.

Ultimately what you are compensating a lawyer for is his time. When I agree to take on a new case I take on a very personal responsibility. That responsibility is not one I assume lightly. Often my client's freedom and lives are entrusted to my care. The only way I can sleep at night is with the knowledge that I have done everything possible to ensure the best possible outcome of your case.

Most people don't plan to be charged with a crime, and that is why I am committed to making quality legal representation affordable. I handle the majority of criminal cases on a flat fee. In other words you do not have to worry about being charged by the hour. We agree to a set amount for the representation in your case. This gives you the peace of mind that if your case becomes more complicated than anticipated, or drawn out for any reason, you are not going to be financially drained. I accept a most forms of payment including Visa, MasterCard and Discover.

Preparing your case for trial.

There are many things that can be done to prepare your case for trial. The purpose of trial preparation is to preserve and gather evidence to disprove the allegations against you. Many times photographs are very useful to a Judge or Jury in deciding your case. If photographic evidence would be of value in your case, attempt to obtain the photographs as close as possible to the date and time of the event.

What are sentencing guidelines?

Federal and state sentencing guidelines are standards used by the court to determine the punishment for a convicted individual. They have been adopted in an effort to increase consistency in sentencing. The length of a sentence is based on two factors: the severity of the crime and the defendant's prior criminal history, and the guidelines specify a minimum and maximum range the court can give. In certain circumstances, the judge may depart from the specified range.

What is the difference between parole and probation?

Parole and probation are employed in the punishment phase of the criminal justice process. Parole comes into play after a person has been imprisoned and is released subject to supervision by an officer of the court. Probation refers to a criminal sentence separate and distinct from incarceration. Probation is a common sentence imposed for first-time offenders or for less serious charges. It typically involves releasing the convicted offender into the community subject to certain terms and conditions. Both parole and probation may include conditions like drug treatment, drug testing and status appear