Tag Archive for: alternative sentencing plan

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Alabama Town Weighs Alternative Sentencing Option

One Alabama community recently unveiled a very controversial alternative sentencing plan ― nonviolent offenders may choose to go to church instead of jail.

Bay Minette, a town of 8,200 residents about 30 miles northeast of Mobile, offered first-time, non-violent offenders facing municipal court charges an alternative of attending church services once a week for a year to avoid jail time, fines and other traditional criminal penalties ― a program called  Restore Our Community (ROC). The town abandoned the plan after pressure from a number of advocacy groups. The ACLU applauded Bay Minette’s attempts to employ alternative sentencing arrangements, but decried the ROC initiative as “coercive” and a clear violation of the United States Constitution’s Establishment Clause. The ROC is currently not available, according to Bay Minette’s website.

Conventional alternative sentencing

Many jurisdictions often sentence criminals to nontraditional punishments. An Alabama criminal defense attorney can give you more information about the programs available to you in your county. Some common alternative sentencing models include:

  • Community service. An offender may work for charitable non-profits ― such as the Red Cross or a homeless shelter – or perform clean-up duties in area parks and other public places.
  • Weekend jail time. Jail inmates serve their entire sentence on weekends, by checking into jail on Friday night and being released on Sunday night.
  • Work release. Inmates continue to work at their regular jobs on weekdays, and spend weeknights and weekends serving their sentences.
  • House arrest. The convicted offenders wear an electronic monitoring device and, apart from a few special circumstances, are not allowed to leave their homes for the duration of their sentences.

Unconventional alternative sentencing

There are also some unconventional alternative sentencing arrangements, aside from Bay Minette’s so-called “Jesus or Jail” plan. For example, a defendant found guilty of playing a car stereo too loudly may be sentenced to listen to classical music. Such measures often meet opposition from advocacy groups based on the idea that these schemes violate the “unusual” portion of the Eight Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.

To speak with an attorney who looks for creative ways to help you deal with a criminal conviction, contact the experienced lawyers at McPhillips Shinbaum for your free consultation.

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Increase Rest, Decrease Truck Accidents

As a personal injury firm, we represent clients hurt in motor vehicle and truck accidents. A contributing factor of those accidents is often fatigue, an issue recently addressed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

In Alabama, accidents with trucks including utility, pick-up and semi-trucks took the lives of more than 300 people in 2011. That same year, FMSCA lowered the allowable hours of service (HOS) for drivers of rigs weighing more than 10,000 pounds. While the rule went into effect in 2012, the final compliance date was July 1 of 2013.

Reducing the situational and long-term fatigue experienced by truck drivers is a primary concern of FMSCA in lowering the HOS. Some key points about the rule change include:

  • The maximum allowable work week for a truck driver is now 72 hours, a 15 percent reduction in hours from the previous 82 hour maximum.
  • Within or after eight hours of drive time, truck operators must take a 30 minute break.
  • The new rule does not alter the 11 hour maximum driving limit per day.

While most trucking companies and drivers will follow the new HOS rule, penalties for lack of compliance with the new regulations include the following:

  • Drivers who exceed HOS rules must remain roadside until needed rest is obtained.
  • The driver and his or her trucking company may be assessed fines by the state and by FMSCA.
  • The safety rating of the trucking company could be reduced following repeated violations.
  • Federal criminal charges can be sought and brought against the trucking company in the presence of repeated violations of the rule.

Driving on any road can be hazardous. Driving near an 18-wheeler with a sleepy driver can be deadly. Get experienced legal help if you are injured in a trucking accident in Alabama.


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Hit and Run in Alabama

A finalist in the most recent Miss Alabama beauty pageant was arrested in February for allegedly running over two students at the University of Alabama with her car and leaving the scene of the accident. Stormie Henderson, 22, was involved in the hit and run in Tuscaloosa in November, leaving both victims in serious condition. She has been indicted by a grand jury and could face serious jail time.

What are your legal obligations?

Under Alabama law, if your car is involved in a motor accident which causes death or injury or damages a vehicle, you are obligated to:

  • Stop your vehicle at or near the scene of the accident and remain there until you have carried out your other obligations.
  • Provide your name, address, vehicle registration and driver’s license to the person injured or whose car was damaged.
  • Provide reasonable assistance to the injured person, including helping him or her get to a hospital for medical treatment.
  • Find the owner of the unattended vehicle(s) you damaged and provide your name and address, or leave a note.
  • If the accident led to a death or injury, you must immediately notify the police when within an urban setting, or the sheriff’s office or highway patrol in other areas.

What are the penalties for failing to stop?

If you are convicted for failing to stop at the scene of an accident in which you damaged an unattended vehicle, your driver’s license will be revoked and you will face up to one year in jail and a possible fine of up to $6,000. If the accident you cause leads to death or injury, you face between one and 10 years in jail as well as a fine of up to $15,000. There is no statute of limitations for failing to stop after an accident which caused death or injury.

If you have been involved in a hit and run auto accident, get in touch with an experienced Alabama auto accident attorney to help you understand your legal position.

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Bicycle Riders Can Lose Rights if They Disobey the Law

Did you know that May was National Bike Month? As the weather warms each year, biking becomes more and more popular and people take to the roads with their bikes. Unfortunately, every year we see far too many collisions between cars and bicycles, resulting in serious injuries and even fatalities.

Alabama law regulates the riding of bicycles just as it does other vehicles. Cyclists who violate Alabama bicycle laws may be found to be at fault and be barred from recovering compensation from a negligent driver because of their own contributory negligence.

In general, all driving laws that apply to motor vehicles also apply to bicycles, including respecting the direction of traffic, stopping at stop signs and red lights, and yielding when required. There are also rules specific to bicyclists:

  • Riding on the right. Bicyclists must ride as close to the right side of the road as possible
  • No more than two abreast. Cyclists on a road cannot ride more than two abreast unless they are on special, bike-only paths
  • Using the bike paths. Whenever there is a usable path for bicycles near the road, a bicyclist may not ride on the road and instead must ride on the bike path
  • No undue burdens. Bicyclist may not carry anything that prevents them from keeping one hand on the handlebars
  • Have proper equipment. A bicycle must have proper equipment, including a functional brake, a white front light that is visible at least 500 feet in front of the bike and a red rear reflector that is visible in the headlamps of a car from between one hundred and six hundred feet away

If you have been injured in a bicycle accident, contact us to see how our personal injury lawyers can help fight for your rights and get you compensation for your injuries.

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What if I Am at Fault, Too?

Alabama’s contributory negligence law and its effect on your case

Every driver has a responsibility to others to drive carefully. As a general rule, if a driver breaks that duty through careless driving and, as a result, injures someone else, the driver is liable to the victim for damages. There is, however, a major exception to this rule in Alabama: contributory negligence.

Contributory negligence is a legal defense available to the defendant. If the defendant can prove that the plaintiff in a lawsuit (the injured person) was at fault in the accident, then the plaintiff may not be able to recover any damages at all from the defendant.

If the defendant’s conduct rose far above the level of negligence and constituted wanton conduct that demonstrated flagrant disregard for the safety of others, however, then contributory negligence will not prevent the plaintiff from winning compensation.

In a civil case in Mobile last year, the jury asked the judge to define contributory negligence. According to the plaintiff’s family, Roosevelt Jones was driving out of the Greater Gulf State Fairgrounds when a gate crashed through his windshield, killing him. The defense contended that because Mr. Jones scored a 1.0 percent on a blood alcohol test, he contributed to his death. Therefore his estate was not entitled to the $4 million in compensation they sued for. The family noted that Mr. Jones was traveling at two or three miles an hour and could not have affected the gate. This case fairly shows the lengths a defense team will go to keep from losing such a case.

When an accident case comes to our office, we carefully dissect every aspect of the case, interviewing witnesses, searching for video evidence, and studying the medical records, accident scene, and vehicles involved. If you have been in an accident, or lost a loved one due to the negligence of another party, our personal injury attorneys may be able to help you.

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Truck Accidents and Their Causes

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) estimates that there are more than 3,000 fatal crashes and 100,000 other crashes involving large trucks in the United States each year. Considering the huge number of trucks on the roads transporting needed goods throughout the country, a significant number of accidents are inevitable. Nonetheless, an awareness of the common causes of truck accidents can help us to avoid them.

The FMCSA conducted an important study in 2007 on truck safety which emphasized a number of factors that are still helpful today:

  • Driver exhaustion. With pressure to make deadlines, driving drowsy is more common among truck drivers than other drivers. Given the size and weight of a large truck, the danger is magnified.
  • Truck driver error. Though many trucks have signs communicating that their drivers have limited visibility on the side, many car drivers do not realize this. Truck drivers often cannot see other drivers making common driving techniques are more difficult, leading to more mistakes.
  • Error by other drivers. When a car driver stops short, swerves, or does something dangerous on the road, another car may be able to avoid the hazard. Because of its size, a truck is much slower to respond and is therefore more likely to crash in these situations.
  • Drug use. Two of the top ten factors cited by the FMCSA involved prescription and over-the-counter drug use. The long hours of a truck driver’s lifestyle often lead to a lack of exercise and an intake of unhealthy food. Many truck drivers suffer from obesity and other health related ailments. The medications they take to treat these ailments are a significant risk factor in trucking accidents, along with illegal substances taken to keep them awake and driving when they should be resting.

If you have been in an accident involving a truck, contact us for a consultation and review of your case to see how we can help get you the compensation you deserve.