Each Spring when the Alabama Legislature convenes in Montgomery, we at Skier & Associates look with a sometimes wary eye to see what new laws will emerge from the session.
We are happy to say that there are several promising pieces of legislation in the pipeline this year, and some of these could have a positive impact on our clients. This post will briefly explore two of these measures that will have the most impact on the people we serve.
The most dramatic measure being considered by the 2021 legislature would abolish Alabama’s antiquated and needlessly cruel Habitual Offender law, while a second measure would allow for re-sentencing of non-violent offenders sentenced under the old scheme. Needless to say, we support both of these measures as excessive prison sentences serve no purpose for these individuals. Alabama’s prisons are clogged with people serving sentences for relatively minor, non-violent offenses. Because of the Habitual Felony Offender Act, which is a relic of the “war on crime,” many needlessly long sentences were imposed. This measure would allow for those convicted of non-violent felonies to be re-sentenced using a more reasonable and humane sentencing scheme. For many this may mean immediate release from prison.
Another measure would expand Alabama’s expungement law to include some convictions in limited circumstances. We have helped many clients obtain expungements, and support any widening of the criteria to allow more people to take advantage of this process. We have often said that Alabama’s scheme of handling expungements needed to be expanded to include those who have been convicted of non-violent acts, as well as those who obtain a pardon from the State of Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles. This measure seems to be a step in that direction.
Finally, a word about medical marijuana. We are advocates for loosening the prohibition on marijuana. Should the legislature take a step toward decriminalization of marijuana, we urge them to also consider blanket pardon and eligibility for expungement for any individual convicted for simple possession. A conviction of this type has a stigma, and it would serve the common good to allow these individuals to clear their records.