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How Does The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals Work?

The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals is one of the two intermediate appellate courts in the state’s judicial system. The court has appellate jurisdiction over all criminal matters heard in Alabama, which includes all cases of felony and misdemeanor and post-conviction writs in criminal cases and violations of city ordinances.

The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals consists of five justices. Before an individual can be elected as a justice, the person must be licensed to practice law in Alabama. They must also have practiced law in Alabama and any other state in the U.S., for a combined period of at least ten years.

Elections to the position of an Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals justice are partisan elections. Elected Justices can also serve as many successive terms as possible before the age of 70. As stipulated by statutory law, justices that are 70 years old are ineligible for re-election. Once elected, the most senior justice in the court serves as the court’s presiding judge. In situations where there is a vacancy in the court, the state governor appoints an eligible individual to fill the position.

When an appeal is filed in the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, the court’s justices review the trial proceedings and court records. The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals is not a trial court, and new testimony, juries, or witnesses are not involved in its court process. Instead, briefs are submitted by the appealing parties. These briefs may include exhibits and evidence presented during the trial in one of the state’s lower courts. The justices review these briefs and may also request that the appealing parties provide an oral argument to augment the submitted briefs. Appealing parties can also request that an oral argument be presented; however, the court can deny this request if it deems it unnecessary. After oral arguments are heard and the briefs thoroughly reviewed, the justices render an opinion.

An appealing party that finds the court’s decision unfavorable may request a rehearing not more than two weeks after the decision. Alternatively, these parties can file a petition for a writ of certiorari with the state’s Supreme Court. In cases that involve capital punishment, these petitions are automatically filed and granted by the Supreme Court of Alabama. In other cases, the Supreme Court has the right to either grant or deny the petition.

When the Supreme Court denies the petition for a writ of certiorari, then the decision of the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals is considered final. If the petition is granted, then the case is reviewed by the Supreme Court of Alabama, and any decision reached by the Supreme Court is considered final. In appeal cases that involve constitutional questions or federal issues, the conclusion of the state’s Supreme Court may be appealed further at a national level.

Typically, the length of time it takes the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals to reach a decision depends on the type of case that is being appealed. Copies of decisions and opinions issued by this court can be accessed online for free via the Alabama judicial system’s Criminal Appeals Decisions and Opinions database. Interested parties can also access court records from the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals by contacting the Supreme Court and State Law Library in person at the address below Monday through Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.:

Heflin-Torbert Judicial Building

1st floor

300 Dexter Avenue

Montgomery, AL 36104

Phone: (334) 229–0578

Written requests for these records can also be mailed to:

Attn: Public Services

Alabama Supreme Court and State Law Library

300 Dexter Avenue

Montgomery, AL 36104

Some of the records available at the state law library include:

  • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals oral argument docket sheets, from 1987 to date
  • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals oral argument recordings, from 1987 to date

Paper copies of these records obtained in-person cost 25 cents per page. Records sent to interested parties by postal mail or email cost $5 for the first ten pages, and 50 cents per additional page, while copies sent by fax cost $2 per page. Records on CDs and DVDs cost $10 & $15 respectively, per copy. In addition to this, a shipping fee of $2.50 is charged for mailing these CDs or DVDs to the requester.

Parties that request for these records via mail can send payment by check or money order made payable to the “Alabama Supreme Court and State Law Library.” Payments for copies obtained in person can also be made with cash.

The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals is located at:

Heflin-Torbert Judicial Building

300 Dexter Avenue

Montgomery, AL 36104

Phone: (334) 229–0751

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