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Sentencing Reform Act of 2003
Act 2003-354                                  Effective June 20, 2003

This Act requires the Sentencing Commission to draft a structured sentencing system for Alabama consisting of voluntary, non-appealable sentencing standards (durational and dispositional) for non-capital felony offenses, to be implemented over a 3-year period. Beginning in 2004, the Commission will submit the first set of voluntary sentencing standards for legislative approval. These standards will be constructed based on historical time-imposed patterns, with adjustments made to reflect sentencing goals established by the Legislature in the Commission's enabling act and this Act. These standards will take into consideration all mandatory minimum penalties and enhancements and their historical application. No enhancements or minimum penalties shall apply to sentences imposed based on the standards. The Sentencing Commission must conclude its data collection, updating its current felony offender database, and draft these standards and worksheets before the 2004 Regular Session of the Legislature. The Act also sets 2006 as the time for submitting a second set of standards to the Legislature. This second set of standards is necessary to implement truth-in-sentencing in Alabama, and if approved by the Legislature, will become effective October 1, 2006.

With the adoption and implementation of voluntary truth-in-sentencing standards in 2006, sentences based on the standards are not subject to any other provision of law as to the duration of the sentence. Sentences will have a minimum and extended term. The minimum term is the sentence, the time the offender must serve. The extended term is an additional 20% of the minimum term for a total of 120% plus a mandatory one-year period of post-release supervision. The amount of time served on the additional 20% is to be determined by the Department of Corrections based on rules and regulations governing an offender's conduct after conviction and sentence.

Implementation of both sets of standards will require the completion of worksheets and reporting to the Alabama Sentencing Commission for statistical purposes and possible modification of the recommended sentencing standards. The Act provides that sentencing standard worksheets are to be provided to the sentencing judge for consideration in felony cases. The worksheets are to be completed by "a probation officer, the district attorney, or some other person appointed at the discretion of the sentencing judge, and within the time frame set by the judge." A copy of the worksheet is to be sent to the Sentencing Commission by the court clerk, along with a copy of the sentencing order(s), and, if applicable, an explanation of departure from the standards, within 45 days after sentencing is imposed.

Other provisions of the Act include:

  •  Definitions of the terms, "continuum of punishments" for non-capital felony offenders, " "intermediate punishment, "violent offender," and "violent offense" (listing 45 specific offenses that include as an element the use or threatened use of a deadly weapon, substantial risk of physical injury, non-consensual sex offenses, offenses that are particularly reprehensible and attempts, conspiracies and solicitations).
  • Requirement that the Sentencing Commission develop a reference manual for sentencing judges by July 31, 2003 that analyzes historical sentencing practices by duration of sentence and disposition. Concurrently with the development and distribution of the reference manual, the Commission is to develop and begin testing worksheets and voluntary sentencing standards in selected circuits for selected felony offenses. In addition, the Commission is charged with developing worksheets, reporting and other appropriate forms; evaluating risk assessment instruments and assisting in developing such instruments; continuing to collect and analyze sentencing data; providing impact statements to the Legislature on criminal justice bills; filing annual reports with the Legislature, Governor and Attorney General; and educating judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, victim's service officers, community corrections officials, probation officers and other personnel in the use of sentencing standards and worksheets.
  • Designation of the probation and parole officers "or other officers designated by the Board of Pardons and Paroles," to provide post-release supervision to felony offenders when post-release supervision is implemented in 2006.
  • Requirement that the Board of Pardons and Paroles" design a release plan to reintegrate felony offenders into society and to further hold the offender accountable for his or her offense by collecting restitution and other court indebtedness."
  • An amendment to the bill proposed by the Commission was added which related to detention of an offender violating the conditions of post-release supervision and awaiting action by the Board of Pardons and Paroles. This provision provides that "no person detained under this section shall be held in the county jail for more than 20 days, and if his or her detention exceeds 20 days, he or she shall be immediately transferred to a state correctional facility."

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