Alabama Law Updates:

Criminal Law/Evidence—Statement against Interest Hearsay Exception under Rule 804(b)(3), Ala. R. Evid.:

The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals held that the trial court abused its discretion when it admitted the defendant's wife's hearsay statement that accused the defendant of murder; the statement was not admissible under the statements against interest hearsay exception under rule 804(b)(3), Ala. R. Evid.  The Court reasoned that "Any pecuniary or proprietary loss to [the defendant'] would have been indirect, and any such loss to [the defendant's wife] would have been even more remote. Therefore, we cannot say that a reasonable person in [the defendant's wife's] situation would have considered the risk to her pecuniary or proprietary interest so great or so direct that she would not lie." Sheffield v. State, CR-15-1467 (Ala Crim. App. Mar. 17, 2017).

Criminal Law—Warrantless Search Exceptions: Inventory Searches and Incident to a Lawful Arrest:

The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals held that the warrantless search of the defendant's vehicle did not fall within the inventory search or incident to lawful arrest exceptions.  In regards to the inventory search exception, the search was unconstitutional because of the lack of evidence presented by the State at the suppression hearing: "The State did not elicit any testimony regarding where a copy of the department's policy could be found, the particular criteria for conducting an inventory search contained in the policy, and whether [the officer] followed that criteria when he conducted the search of [the defendant's] vehicle."  The search also did not fall within the incident to a lawful arrest exception because the vehicle was searched after the defendant was arrested and the officer could not have reasonably expected to find evidence of the defendant's arrest, i.e., outstanding warrants for traffic violations, in a search of the defendant's vehicle. Keith v. State​, CR-15-1319 (Ala. Crim. App. Mar. 17, 2017).

Criminal Law/Evidence—Stipulation for Appeal from District Court to Circuit Court:

The Alabama Supreme Court held that a defendant's guilty plea in district court was admissible against the defendant in his circuit court jury trial.  A trial de novo in circuit court provides the defendant with a clean slate in regards to the determination of the defendant's guilt, i.e., the judgment of the district court, but it does not erase the defendant's voluntary admission of guilt. Woods v. State, No. 1151152 (Ala. Dec. 23, 2016).

Criminal Law/Evidence—Prior Drug Conviction Admissible under Rule 404(b):

The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals held that a defendant's prior conviction for unlawful distribution of marijuana was admissible against the defendant under Rule 404(b) to prove that the defendant had knowledge of the presence of marijuana inside the vehicle in which he was a passenger. Walden v. State, CR-15-0577 (Ala. Crim. App. Oct. 21, 2016).