The Alabama Code Title 15 is known as the criminal procedure of the state; a series of laws that dictates how a person accused of a crime should be processed through the justice system. Divided into 26 chapters, the criminal procedure of the state deals with every aspect of the trial process; the first two chapters offer definitions and explanation on the jurisdiction of the criminal code while the last few chapters are devoted to the legal treatment of defendants with a history of mental ailments, child victims and witnesses and the use of audio-video technology in the pre-trial phase. The chapters in between are dedicated to all other aspects of the actual procedure of trying an accused, starting at the arrest and ending in a verdict.
Processing an accused
Once the general jurisdiction and the limitations on prosecution have been discussed the criminal procedure goes on to lay down the rules for arrest and detention of an individual. While the law explicitly mentions that an arrest can be made without the use of a judicial order for detention like a warrant, certain conditions have to be met when taking a person into custody without a warrant.
For instance, a peace officer can only execute an arrest on the spot if the crime has been committed in front of him/her or he has reason to believe that the accused will commit a crime or has already committed a crime. This is the law used when arresting suspects on the run and individuals who are found to be in possession of illegal substances, ammunition etc.
However, if a warrant is required, it can only be procured from the magistrate of a judicial entity in the state that has the authority to deliberate in criminal matters. The sitting judge of such a tribunal is to be presented with all facts pertaining to the case. Such an affidavit or complaint can be filed in court by the sheriff’s office or the victim of the crime.
The information available in the matter has to bring out probable cause; this means that there should be enough evidence for a reasonable person to believe that the incident is a crime and that the person against whom the warrant is being requested has played a part in it. The judge will then sign an arrest order which is then known as an active arrest warrant.
Armed with the document, peace officers can enter any property including third party premises to exercise the arrest and this can be done at any time of the day or night.
After the arrest
Once a person is taken into custody, the police are legally bound to present him before the court at the earliest, which leaves them with little time to extract a confession out of the alleged offender. It is imperative to understand that under the Miranda Rights, which are read to the offender at the time of arrest, the person being apprehended is under no legal obligation to confess to the crime or offer any information that may implicate him. Furthermore, he/she has the right to request the presence of an attorney while he is being examined.
Depending on the nature of the crime, the accused will be taken to the court for an arraignment hearing where he/she will have to enter a plea. At this point formal charges will be filed against the accused and he/she will be notified of his right. A bail may also be set for release. This is generally done in felony cases; however, the procedure for misdemeanor charges is considerably simpler.
After the completion of the pretrial phase mentioned above, the matter is presented before the tribunal where a judge or the jury may decide on the case. If a guilty verdict is pronounced the offender is then handed over to the Alabama Department of Corrections for behavioral assessment and incarceration.
In the meanwhile, the accused can appeal against any decision of the trial court in the appellate court and even the Supreme Court. Defendants who cannot afford the services of an attorney are given the right to plead the case on their own or are offered the help of a state appointed lawyer.