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Bill eliminating presumptive sentencing guidelines following trial advances

Hill said presumptive guidelines are “an offer” that a criminal defendant rejects by choosing to go to trial.

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Since 2016, presumptive sentencing guidelines have been in place for nonviolent felonies in Alabama, ranging from drug charges to theft of property.

But Rep. Jim Hill, R-Odenville, is seeking to drop those guidelines if am accused individual decides to go forward with a trial.

“If you have presumptive sentencing guidelines, that is an offer, and that offer can be taken by a criminal defendant or rejected,” Hill said.

Hill spent a decade as the St. Clair County district judge, and then another decade as the county’s circuit judge.

Most criminal cases are already reaching plea deals according to Alabama’s Administrative Office of Courts. 

Since 2016, fewer than 1 percent of criminal cases have reached the trial stage. The report doesn’t break down which types of offenses go to trial, but it stands to reason that many of those do not fall under the state’s presumptive sentencing guidelines.

Hill said he doesn’t believe the law would result in an increase in plea deals.

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“I don’t think it is going to increase that number at all,” Hill said. “It just gives that discretion back to the judge. It puts it back where it was before the guidelines were ever in existence.”

The bill was given favorable report by the House Judiciary Committee without discussion and now awaits discussion by the full House.

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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