A habitual offender is a person who repeatedly commits a crime. In Alabama the punishment for such offenders is harsh as it allows a person with one felony conviction to be sentenced at the next class for his new felony conviction. This means if the offender’s current charge is a class C offense (1-10 years) he will be sentenced for a class B offense (2-20).

Alabama’s habitual offender law was intended to deter people from committing future crimes, however the way the law is being applied has caused an undue hardship on many defendants as well as resulted in an overcrowded prison system. Today if a defendant has multiple previous felonies that arose from the same offense each felony is counted separately which results in a harsher sentence for the defendant. To understand the severity of the situation look at the following:

A defendant is convicted of possession of marijuana in the first degree which is a class C felony as a result he is looking at 1 year 1 day – 10 years in the penitentiary. The defendant also has previous felony convictions for burglary and theft of property from three years ago, when he broke into a house and stole a television, which means he will be sentenced as a habitual offender. Using the law as it is currently applied; the defendant has two prior felonies which increase his possible sentence to 10 years – life in the penitentiary.

 If Alabama recognized felonies arising from the same occurrence as one felony, the same defendant would have one prior felony and would be facing a possible sentence of 2 to 20 years in prison. Applying the law in the latter matter still furthers the legislative intent of punishing repeat offenders but without creating an injustice to the offender.

The current application of Alabama’s Habitual Offender Act has resulted in longer sentences for offenders.  The Alabama Sentencing Commission is currently trying to find a solution to the overcrowded prison population.


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