How to change your name in Etowah County?

Name Change Lawyers | Dani Bone & Sam Bone 

Dani Bone & Sam Bone have handled hundreds of name changes. We know the system and can move your name change paperwork through the Court in an expeditious and anonymous manner. Let our Name Change Attorneys handle the paperwork and take the stress away from you so that you can live your life. If you have questions about a name change, call us today. We can help. 

  1. First, you need to find out if you are eligible for a name change.

    Determine if you’re eligible. It doesn't do much good to go through the name-change process, only to find out in the end that you don’t qualify. Here are some things to be aware of:
    • You have to be 19 years of age or older to file the request
    • You can’t make the request to avoid paying a debt or a judgment against you, or to defraud someone
    • You must not be a convicted Criminal Sex Offender (under Alabama law) or a defendant in a criminal proceeding.
    • You can't be a party to any judicial proceeding in any court in any
    • Must not  currently be a defendant to any criminal charge;
    • Cannot have been convicted of any felony or crime involving moral

  2. Compile the identification documents you’ll need. Although required documentation varies from county to county, prepare to provide the following:
    • A certified copy of your birth certificate (not a photocopy)
    • Proof of residency, such as a lease, deed or utility bill (some Probate courts may require two such documents)
    • A driver’s license or other government-issued photo ID
    • Your social security card.
  3. Find a copy of your marriage certificate or divorce decree. If you changed your name when you got married or divorced, the Probate court may want to review these papers.
  4. Collect additional documents if you’re requesting a name change for a minor. If you’re looking to change the name of someone under 19 years old (a minor in Alabama), there’s additional paperwork you may need, such as:
    • A certified copy of the minor child’s birth certificate
    • The child’s social security cardProof that the father listed on the name-change Petition is the child’s natural father (if his name isn’t on the child’s birth certificate).
    • A certified copy of the court order or blood test confirming this will be required
    • A certified copy of any court order terminating the parental rights of the child’s father or mother, if applicable
  5. Bring your necessary documents to your lawyer.
    • Dani Bone & Sam Bone have handled hundreds of name changes. We know the system and can move your name change paperwork through the Court in an expeditious and anonymous manner. Let our Name Change Attorneys handle the paperwork and take the stress away from you so that you can live your life. If you have questions about a name change, call us today. We can help. 
    • Your lawyer will have the necessary forms to Petition for a Change of Namea the Probate Court. 
  6. Attend the hearing. Some county Probate courts will require you to attend a hearing before they’ll grant you the name-change. Usually the hearing involves going over items in your Petition, including answering any questions the Probate judge might have about the Petition or the documents you've provided. This is perfectly normal, and the fact that the court requires a hearing doesn't mean there’s a problem with your request.
  7. Get a new social security card. Once the Probate court gives you the official document changing your name, you still have a lot of work to do. Applying for a new social security card should be a top priority. You can get more information on this at
  8. Change your driver’s license and other motor vehicle documentation. In Alabama, you’ll need to contact the local motor vehicle office and the Department of Public Safety. Check for more information.
  9. Obtain a new birth certificate. You can do this by contacting the Bureau of Vital Statistics in Montgomery, Alabama.
  10. Contact credit card companies and banks. You’ll probably need to have new credit and/or debit cards issued with your new name. Also reach out to your bank, regarding any accounts, loans, etc. that may require attention because of the name change. You’ll undoubtedly find other companies that you may want to notify, as you move forward.

Gadsden Criminal Lawyer Dani Bone Discusses Criminal Procedure on NBC 13

Gadsden and Etowah County attorney, Dani Bone, appeared on NBC 13 with Birmingham Injury Lawyers Hollis Wright about criminal procedure on 05/20/2018.  

Gadsden Criminal Defense Lawyer Dani Bone

1. What is the difference between criminal law and civil law? And what determines whether an act is criminal?

 Civil law is matter between individuals, such as Mr. Doe vs. Mr. Jones suing each other for things such as negligence or contract disputes.  Criminal law involves the State on behalf of the people against an individual for breaking specific codified criminal laws.  The state is represented by the district attorney also called the prosecutor.  The various criminal acts and statutes are found in the Alabama Code Title 13A.  That section list all the acts determined to be criminal by the State of Alabama.  These laws were drafted with public safety and morals in mind.  

2. In general what are the steps one may go through in the criminal process in Etowah County, Alabama: 

The general sequence of events in the criminal law process is as follows:

The Arrest by Gadsden City police or Etowah County—

The police arrest an individual when they have probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed. The arrest may be made on the police officer's initiative at the time of the alleged crime, or after a warrant has been issued and the subject of the arrest surrenders to the police. Technically an "arrest" occurs when a person has been taken into police custody and is no longer free to leave or move about. 


Booking & Bail in Etowah County Jail-

After an arrest, the individual is processed into police custody ("booking"), and a determination of his or her eligibility for release from custody in exchange for the posting of a set amount of money ("bail") is determined. In order to post a bond an individual can deposit the exact amount of bond in cash, which is refunded when the case is over; or can use a bail bondsman, which usually charges 10% to 15% of the amount of the bond, which is not refundable; or can post a house for the value of the bond.

Gadsden, Alabama Bondsmen, A Gilchrist Bail Bonds,  Eagle Bail Bond LLC, A Absolute Bail Bonding LLC, Big Boy's Bail Bonding, Enj Bail Bonding, Ed Jones, 


The Arraignment in Alabama —

This is a hearing in which you learn of the charges against you. It provides an opportunity for the prosecutor and your defense attorney to discuss a possible negotiated plea, if that is your desire.  

Grand jury hearing in Alabama—

If you have been charged with a felony, your case may be sent to a grand jury that will decide if you should be indicted.  You may wish to testify in this hearing, although this is usually not advisable.

Preliminary Hearing in Alabama -

Usually held soon after the arraignment, a preliminary hearing is where the judge determines whether there is enough evidence to force the defendant to stand trial. In making this determination, the judge uses the "probable cause" legal standard, deciding whether the government has produced enough evidence to convince a reasonable jury that the defendant committed the crime(s) charged.

Plea bargaining in Alabama—

Many times this occurs during the preliminary hearing but can happen at other times as well.  Plea bargain are basically what they sound like, your attorney attempts to negotiate reduced charges, separate less severe charges, or reduced fines, jail time, etc. in exchange for you to pleading guilty.  While these are difficult decisions to make, in some cases it can be a better alternative than risking a trial and the possibility of a harsher sentence. The vast majority of cases are resolved through a plea bargain.   

Pre-trial motions in Alabama

Pre-trial motions are used to learn more about the government's evidence against you and uncover potential weaknesses in its case. They can also use these to suppress evidence or to seek a dismissal of the charge.

Trial- In a criminal trial, a jury examines the evidence to decide whether, "beyond a reasonable doubt," the defendant committed the crime in question. A trial is the government's opportunity to argue its case, in the hope of obtaining a "guilty" verdict and a conviction of the defendant. A trial also represents the defense's chance to refute the government's evidence, and to offer its own in some cases. After both sides have presented their arguments, the jury considers as a group whether to find the defendant guilty or not guilty of the crime(s) charged.


3. At what point in this process should a person contact an attorney in Alabama?

 As soon as possible, preferably prior to giving any statement to the police.  Since every statement made can be used against you, you should make sure to secure all of your rights by securing a criminal lawyer as soon as possible.  Furthermore, the criminal attorney will want to begin working on your defense early while evidence, whether physical or in the form of witnesses are fresh and available.  Delaying the hiring of an attorney can potentially create problems for you and the attorney in the future. 

4. What separates misdemeanors from felonies in Alabama and what types of sentences could be levied after either a plea bargain or guilty verdict?

 For each crime listed in the Alabama Criminal Statutes a determination is made whether that crime is a misdemeanor or felony.  Basically the difference between the two is the length of the particular jail time.  Misdemeanor’s are crimes that are limited to jail terms of 0 days up to 1 year, whereby felonies are crimes which can carry jail terms starting from 1 year and a day up until life or if the case is seriousness the death penalty.  Both misdemeanors and felonies are broken down into three classes, A, B, C.  A class “A” felony or misdemeanor are the most serious and carry the more severe punishments.  Examples of felonies are: Murder Rape Possession of a controlled substance 

 There are many types of sentences or punishments which can be levied dependant on the type of crime an individual is convicted of.  Factors may come into play such as past convictions, severity of the crime etc.  Finally some crimes have statutory punishments in which a judge must follow without the ability to use his/her discretion.  An example would be mandatory jail time for second time DUI convictions within 5 years of the first conviction.  

Examples of types of punishments include but are not limited to the following:   Capital Punishment, Incarceration, Probation and Fines 

5. When an individual is approached by a police officer, is he/she required to answer questions posed by the officer in Alabama? What if the police officer asks for consent to search my car or my house in Alabama?

Biographical information such as your name, address and phone number and any information about your identity should be given, but you are not required to answer anything else.  You should always be aware that anything you say can be used against you.  You should not submit to questioning without the presence of an attorney.

Unless the officer has a warrant, you should politely decline.  Never consent to a search unless there is a warrant. The Constitution protects from unreasonable searches and seizures, therefore unless the office has enough cause to secure a warrant for his search then you have no duty to consent.

6. You often hear the term Miranda warning in Alabama or “being read ones rights,” what is that and when must it be given and what is its purpose? 

 Once a person is in custody of police, which is determined by whether he/she is currently deprived of his or her freedom to leave, the police must recite the Miranda warning if they wish to continue questioning the individual and use the his/her answers as evidence at trial.  The Miranda informs the individual that they have the right to consult an attorney and anything they say can be used against them.   However if a person is not in custody a Miranda warning is not required and anything the person says can be used in against the person.  However even if the police do not give the Miranda warnings, the person can still be charged, except the police/prosecutor will not be able to use anything the person said as evidence at trial.


7. Alabama has just enacted new DUI laws beginning September 1, 2011.  Briefly what is a DUI and how can someone be charged with one?

 The crime of drunk driving is generally defined in two ways: (1) having a blood alcohol content above the limit set by law, or (2) driving under the influence of alcohol. To find a person guilty under the first definition, a jury must be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the person's blood alcohol content (BAC) exceeded a certain amount. In most states the legal limit is .08 (or 8 percent). Therefore, if it is proven that the person's BAC at the time of the incident was .08 or greater, he or she can be convicted of drunk driving, regardless of how much alcohol was actually consumed.

In contrast, the second definition does not refer to any particular BAC; it focuses on the driving behavior of the person. If the person's driving is impaired by the consumption of alcohol, he or she can be found guilty of drunk driving. Instead of presenting evidence of the BAC to a jury, the prosecution seeking a conviction under this definition generally presents testimony about the person's driving and consumption of alcohol. A police officer will often describe the impaired driving that lead him to pull the person over and the person's ability (or lack thereof) to perform field sobriety tests, such as walking a straight line. Evidence is also usually presented concerning the person's consumption of alcohol. If the jury then concludes that the prosecution has met its burden of proof, it will convict the person of drunk driving. A susceptible person may exhibit impaired driving after one drink and therefore be convicted of drunk driving.

DUIs are serious business.  Being convicted of DUI can seriously affect your life and your future. A DUI conviction can result in jail time as well as the loss of driving privileges. You will be assessed heavy fines and court costs as well as increased cost or loss of your automobile insurance. Finally a DUI conviction can negatively affect your employment, via being denied certain jobs or losing your current employment.

8. Must I be driving in order to be charged with a DUI in Alabama?

 No, in Alabama you can be charged with a DUI even if not actually driving the car at the time of arrest.  You can be charged with DUI even if not seen driving through the use of circumstantial evidence to prove that the person had actual physical control of the vehicle.  Actual physical control is the power and ability to operate, move, park, or direct whatever use or non-use is to be made of the motor vehicle at the moment.  Examples of actual physical control would be having possession of the vehicles ignition key, sitting in the driver’s seat and having the capability to start the engine and drive.  In other words, if you are intoxicated sitting in your car, even if it is not in motion you could be charged with a DUI.

9. Am I required to perform the roadside sobriety test or the roadside handheld breathalyzer in Alabama?

 No.  You can decline both of these tests.  However you can still be arrested if the officer believes he has probable cause to still charge you with DUI.  This is usually done by noting your speech, motor skills, etc. Note that once you are in custody you will be asked to take the breath test at the police station.  In Alabama, when a person applies for an Alabama driver’s license they automatically are agreeing to the Alabama implied consent law. Which means that if you are stopped on suspicion of DUI you agree to submit to a blood, breath or urine test to prove your intoxication level.  Failure to submit to this test for a first time offender will result in an immediate 90-day license suspension with no chance of obtaining driving privileges during that 90-day period. If it is determined that the refusal is a second or subsequent refusal within the past five years, there is a 1-year license suspension with no chance of obtaining driving privileges during that 1-year period.

10. Briefly what are penalties for your first DUI and subsequent DUIs in Alabama?

 Cost and penalties associated with DUI can be quite severe.  It could take a long time to go through every potential penalty, cost, fine or repercussions related to a DUI conviction be it your first or subsequent.  That is why you need to seek immediate help from a competent DUI attorney.  However briefly the penalties for your first and subsequent DUIs are as follows:

 1st DUI – imprisonment not more than one year, or fine of not less than $600 nor more than $2,100, or by both fine and imprisonment.  In addition the driving privileges are suspended for after conviction for a period of 90 days.

 2nd DUI – a second conviction within 5 years of the first will result in a fine of not less than $1,100 nor more than $5,100 and by imprisonment for not more than one year.  There is a mandatory jail time of not less than five days or community service for not less than 30 days and revocation of driving privileges for a period of one year.

 3rd DUI – on a third conviction, a fine not less than $2,100 nor more than $10,100 and by imprisonment for not less than 60 days nor more than one year, to include a minimum of 60 days in jail. The driving privileges are revoked for a period of three years.

 4th DUI – On the fourth or subsequent convictions, you are charged with a felony and punished by a fine of not less than $4,100 nor more than $10,100 and by imprisonment of not less than one year and one day nor more than 10 years.  Mandatory sentence of 10 days, whereby the remainder of the sentence may be suspended or probated if person meets certain conditions.  Driving privileges are revoked for a period of five years.

 Again this is a brief breakdown there are many other repercussions and unforeseen issues.  However recently there have been enhancements to the above.


11. Governor Bentley just enacted two new tough DUI laws, what are they in Alabama?

On June 9, 2011 Governor Robert Bently signed into law Act 11-613 the “ignition interlock” bill which goes into effect September 1, 2012 and Act 11-621, and the “double minimum punishment” bill which goes into effect September 1, 2011.  Both of these bills increase the punishment and severity of DUI convictions if you meet certain conditions.

The “double minimum punishment” bill allows for the following: 

•  This bill provides that UPON CONVICTION for DUI, any offender with a blood-alcohol content of 0.15 or greater will be sentenced to double what he or she would have received had his or her BAC been less than 0.15. This same sentence enhancement is currently used when someone is convicted of DUI while a child under the age of 14 is present in the vehicle at the time of the offense (subsection (n) of the current DUI statute).

• This bill also provides that the offender’s license shall be suspended for “at least one year”. This only comes into play for a first offense. Currently, a first offense only mandates a 90 day DL suspension; however, should the offenders BAC be 0.15 or greater, the DL suspension shall be for one year.

• The effect on a first offender will be that the DL suspension will be for one year instead of the current 90 days and the minimum fine goes from $600 to $1200. For a second offense, the minimum mandatory jail time goes from five days to 10 days and the minimum fine goes from $1100 to $2200. For a third offense, the minimum mandatory jail time goes from 60 days to 120 days and the minimum fine goes from $2100 to $4200. For a fourth or subsequent offense, the minimum jail time goes from 10 days to 20 days and the minimum fine goes from $4100 to $8200.


The “ignition interlock” bill allows for the following:


• This law goes in to effect September 1, 2011, however, as stated in section 3 of the bill, the substantive provisions do not go into effect until September 1, 2012. 

• An ignition interlock is a device installed on the car of the DUI offender’s choosing that the offender is required to blow into prior to cranking his or her vehicle. If the person has a BAC of 0.02 or higher, the vehicle will not start. The device will also require a “rolling restart” which means that it must be blown into every few minutes to keep the vehicle cranked. This keeps the offender from driving to a bar, leaving the car running while he drinks and allowing him to enter a cranked vehicle to drive home. The portion of the device to be blown into is a long tube, so blowing into it will require no more effort than using a straw.

• How this will work: When someone is convicted of DUI, his or her driver’s license will be suspended as it is under current law. When the offender applies for DL reinstatement, they will get a special DL that indicates they can only operate a vehicle equipped with an interlock device. The offender will have to show proof of installation of an interlock device prior to getting their DL reinstated.

• The ignition interlock is NOT mandatory for a first offender UNLESS the offender had a BAC of 0.15 or higher, refused to submit to a chemical test, had a child in the vehicle under the age of 14 or if someone other than the defendant was injured at the time of the offense. The offender will then be required to have an interlock installed on their vehicle for two years. For a second offense, the offender will be required to have an interlock device for two years after the one-year DL revocation is served. For a third offense, after the defendant has served a three-year DL revocation, the offender will be required to have an interlock installed for three years. For a fourth or subsequent offense, the offender will be required to have an interlock device for five years following the five-year DL revocation.

• The device is leased from and interlock provider and costs the offender approximately $2-$3 per day and the offender must have their device serviced every 30 days.

• If the offender is found to have incurred any violations with the interlock, the provider will report those violations to the court and the time the offender is required to have the interlock is extended six months. Such violations include blowing into the device with a BAC at or above .02 four or more times in a 30 day period, attempts to tamper with or circumvent the device and failure to get service within a 30 day period.


12. How soon after my DUI arrest should I contact an attorney in Alabama?

 Immediately.  For one, if you’ve been arrested for Alabama DUI, the law allows only 10 days for your lawyer to make a request with the Alabama Department of Public Safety for a hearing to save your Alabama Driver’s License.  DUIs are not to be taken lightly due to the severe consequences especially in light of the new laws recently passed that can arise from a conviction.  You need to find a qualified DUI attorney as soon as possible who can make sure your rights are protected.


• You should contact counsel immediately if you have a criminal issue that arises.  Failure to take a criminal case seriously could have a permanent impact on your employability, credit, etc.

• Out of state DUIs can be used for sentence enhancements in Alabama.

• Alabama generally has no provision for hardship driver permits if your driver’s license is suspended due to DUI.  

• You only have 10 days after being arrested for a DUI to make a request with the Alabama Department of Public Saftey to prevent suspension of your driver’s license until your DUI case has been completed.

• On June 9, 2011 Governor Robert Bently signed into law Act 11-613 the “ignition interlock” bill which goes into effect September 1, 2012 and Act 11-621, and the “double minimum punishment” bill which goes into effect September 1, 2011.  Both of these bills can greatly increase the fines, costs and punishments for those convicted of a DUI.






Do I need a lawyer for an uncontested divorce in Alabama?


In Alabama, an uncontested divorce essentially means that the spouses have agreed to divorce and how to separate their lives. In an uncontested divorce, one spouse files for divorce based on a no-fault ground (incompatibility or irreconcilable differences) and the other spouse agrees.

In addition, both spouses have to reach agreement on all major issues involved in a divorce. The issues that must be agreed upon include child custody, division of property, and division of debt. Because child support is usually determined automatically according to the child support guidelines, it’s not usually subject to negotiation and therefore doesn’t need to be agreed upon for an uncontested divorce in Alabama.

But, hiring an experienced divorce lawyer can help you figure out ways to manipulate the guidelines and ways around the child support guidelines.

Because there is no need for a trial or multiple court appearances, the biggest benefit of an uncontested divorce is that is it significantly less expensive than a contested divorce. Uncontested divorces are also quicker.

You don't have to hire a lawyer in order to obtain an uncontested divorce in Alabama, in other words you can represent yourself. Even though there is no court battle in an uncontested divorce, lawyers can still assist spouses through the uncontested divorce process by providing advice, making sure paperwork is completed correctly, and filing the paperwork in a timely manner.

  1. The Alabama Judge is approving the contents of the paper work - not the paper work.

    There is more to getting a divorce than just doing the paper work correctly. Judges turn down "perfect" paper work every day because of what is written in them and not because of the format they are written in.

    Even if you and your spouse are 100% in agreement on all issues the Judge can still refuse to approve your terms for a variety of reasons including the fact they personally think it just will not work or it is not (in their opinion) in the best interest of both parties or the children. An Alabama divorce lawyer can help you write up the agreement you have reached in such a way that it will be approved by the local Judges or make suggestions for alternatives to things he or she knows a Judge will not approve.

    For instance, if you and your spouse agree that there should be no child support in a divorce.  You must word the papers the right way or the judge will not approve it.  Or worse, you could word it in a way where your spouse could immediately file for child support following signing the papers.

    Another example is how each courthouse has different rules for uncontested divorces.  Etowah County, Alabama judges require a walk-through where they take testimony from the Plaintiff.  In Cherokee County the court will sign the divorce after 30 days of signing it without a walk-through.  In Mobile County, the court requires that a Commissioner be appointed to take testimony.  Without an attorney, you probably won't know the rules of the local jurisdiction. 

    Our law firm has DIY software for Etowah County and surrounding areas that we can sell for a fraction of the cost of hiring a lawyer would cost and you will have the satisfaction of knowing it is done correctly. If you want more information on these forms, email me at
  2. Pro se litigants (people without lawyers) can be inconvenient to clerks and judges

    Do not be surprised if you are not welcomed with open arms in court when you are handling your case without a lawyer. Pro se litigants are tolerated by the courts because they understand that legal representation is financially out of the scope of many people but do not expect to be treated in any special manner. Judges are humans too who dislike the burden of having to turndown improperly filed paperwork only to review it again a few days later.

    With a lawyer, the judge has confidence that the paperwork is done correctly. 

    In every aspect of your case you will be held to the same exact standard the lawyers are held. In fact you are often held to a higher standard than the lawyers because Judges will offer practical suggestions to a lawyer as how to fix something that the Judge is not happy with but will not offer the suggestions to a person handling their own case out of fear that the suggestion being giving could be viewed as giving legal advice. If there is a procedural or substantive problem with your papers the Judge will probably tell you to hire a lawyer and put the case on hold until you do it.

    For instance, a judge may tell a lawyer to change the wording on some child support forms and he will accept it.  But he may not feel comfortable doing the same to a pro se litigant. 

    Our law firm has DIY software for Etowah County and surrounding areas that we can sell for a fraction of the cost of hiring a lawyer would cost and you will have the satisfaction of knowing it is done correctly. If you want more information on these forms, email me at

  3. It is illegal for judges, staff of judges, and clerks to give you legal advice in Alabama

    Under the current laws of Alabama, Judges and court staff are strictly not allowed to give you any legal advice. Some people end up going to court over and over again because of a very minor procedure error or omission but neither the Judge or the court personal are able to explain the problem to them and how to fix it because that would be giving them legal advice.

    RULE 3.10: of ABA MODEL JUDICIAL CODE provides that, "A judge shall not practice law. A judge may act pro se and may, without compensation, give legal advice to and draft or review documents for a member of the judge’s family,* but is prohibited from serving as the family member’s lawyer in any forum."
  4. If you hire an attorney your part is basically over once the agreement is reached.

    If you hire an uncontested divorce lawyer to do your divorce for you, once you and your spouse reach an agreement you are basically done and can turn everything else over to the lawyer to handle. Your lawyer will draft your agreement in a manner that it will be approved by the court and recommend changes and suggestions regarding things that might not be approved. You lawyer can handle getting the papers to your spouse for signing and answering any questions they might have about the paper work. Your lawyer will file the singed documents for you at the Clerk's office and will take care of any issues that might come up in the filing process. If the Judge does not require you to attend a final hearing it is the job of the lawyer to get the final decree signed, filed and a copy to both parties. If there is a hearing then the lawyer acts on your behalf and makes any changes the Judge needs until the divorce is final.
  5. In divorce with minor children, there are lots of extra, mandatory forms that must be filed in each and every case

    All the time, a client walks into my office and hands me the divorce package they got from the Gadsden Public Library and tells me it was just too confusing and they gave up on trying to figure it out. Another group of my clients come from people who did complete the papers but the Judge told them they would not sign them based on the way they were completed.

    Often times in divorces I do with minor children, the Judge has me make changes to one or more of the documents that I have prepared either because the Judge changed the child support amount or the Judge made us make changes to the parenting plan.

    The reason for all of these changes is that the now required forms where passed by the Alabama legislature that requires certain child support forms be filed with each case.  Hiring a lawyer can make sure that you have the necessary forms completed.
  6. Alabama Divorce Judges can refuse to accept Custody and Visitation arrangements even if both parents have agreed to them.

    Alabama Circuit Court Judges have broad discretion in whether or not they approve custody and visitation arrangements even when both parents have agreed to them in advance.
    It often comes to a shock to parents to learn that once they decide to divorce that they lose the right to have the final say so on how their children will be raised.  If the agreement you and your spouse have reached involves asking the court for visitation other than the standard of one parent having primary custody and the other parent having every other weekend and odd/even holidays it is imperative that you talk to a local lawyer to find out how the local judges feel about what you are proposing so you are not surprised if the Judge says no.
  7. You can hire an uncontested divorce lawyer for about the price you pay a document preparation service.

    There really is no reason not to hire an uncontested divorce lawyer to handle your divorce when you can hire one for about the same amount that you would pay a legal document provider to type your divorce papers. In cases with minor children you do often end up paying a lawyer more money up front in fees but it is money well spent since it cuts down on the time you have to spend to figure out the complicated child support guidelines. For some one who does not do it on a regular basis, it can take a whole day just to complete the paper work for a divorce with minor children.

    To that time add in another half day off from work to get it signed, copies made and filed with the Clerk's office.  In the long run hiring an uncontested lawyer to do the case should save you time and money than handling you divorce on your own.

What is a youthful offender hearing in Alabama?

If your case is set for a youthful offender hearing, you will first need to meet with your county's State probation office. Section 15-19-1 provides that an Investigation and examination by state probation should take place.  After such investigation and examination, the court, in its discretion, may direct that the defendant be arraigned as a youthful offender, and no further action shall be taken on the indictment or information; or the court may decide that the defendant shall not be arraigned as a youthful offender, whereupon the indictment or information shall be deemed filed.

            The Alabama Youthful Offender Act allows criminal courts in Alabama  to grant youthful offender status to defendants whose crimes or offenses occurred before they turned 21 years of age.


A defendant must request youthful offender status, and the courts in Alabama have an obligation to inform eligible defendants of the right to request the status.  Once the request is made, the court will typically request an investigation by a probation officer into the background of the defendant and the facts and circumstances with which they are charged.  The trial court has a great deal of discretion in the decision to grant or deny youthful offender status.  In our experience, courts consider a wide variety of factors in making the decision, some appropriate and some not so appropriate.  Nevertheless, it is important to present information to the court as to factors.  Some common factors considered include:  prior contact with criminal justice system, age, maturity, family relationships, role in the offense, seriousness of the offense, school attendance and history, potential for rehabilitation, and community ties.  The court will hold a hearing at which your attorney may present information and evidence on your behalf.


Alabama Code § 15-19-6 provides that if the underlying offense was a felony offense, a person given youthful offender status faces the following potential punishment:

  • ·         Incarceration in the custody of the Board of Corrections for up to 3 years
  • ·         Probation for up to 3 years
  • ·         Suspension of the sentence with probation
  • ·         Suspension of the sentence without probation
  • ·         Fines, with or without probation (typically up to $1,000)

Where a youthful offender is placed on probation, they are placed under the supervision of the appropriate probation agency.

Alabama Code § 15-19-6 provides that if the underlying offense was a misdemeanor offense, a person given youthful offender status can be punished as provided by law for such misdemeanor.


By establishing the Alabama Youthful Offender Act, the Legislature not only provided an alternative method of sentencing minors, but, in fact, created a procedure separate and apart from the criminal procedure dealing with adults accused of the same offense.  Ex parte Jackson, 415 So.2d 1169 (Ala.1982). Youthful Offender Act proceedings are not “criminal” in nature. Raines v. State, 294 Ala. 360, 365, 317 So. 2d 559, 562 (1975).  Therefore, an adjudication and grant of youthful offender status is not a “conviction” as that term is used in relation to Alabama criminal law.  The Alabama Supreme Court describes the workings of the Youthful Offender Act as follows:

 The Youthful Offender Act is intended to extricate persons below twenty-one years of age from the harshness of criminal prosecution and conviction. It is designed to provide them with the benefits of an informal, confidential, rehabilitative system. A determination that one is a youthful offender (1) does not disqualify the youth from public office or public employment, (2) does not operate as a forfeiture of any right or privilege, (3) does not make him ineligible to receive any license granted by public authority, and (4) shall not be deemed a conviction of crime; and (5) the record shall not be open to public inspection except upon permission of the court. Title 15, s 266(6), Code of Alabama.  Raines v. State, 294 Ala. 360, 363, 317 So. 2d 559, 561 (1975).

When a court grants youthful offender status, the adjudication essentially ended the adult criminal prosecution.  The Youthful Offender Act states in Ala. Code § 15-19-1, where an application for youthful offender is granted, “no further action shall be taken on the indictment or information.” Ala. Code § 15-19-1.


Under Alabama Code § 15-19-7, fingerprints and photographs and other records of a person adjudged a youthful offender are not open to public inspection with two exceptions.  First, a court may, in its discretion, permit the inspection of papers or records.  Second, prosecutors have access to fingerprints, photographs, and other records of a person adjudged a youthful offender contained in the court file regardless of the jurisdiction from which the file originates.

What is a "Super DUI" in Alabama? What are the penalties for a 0.15 BAC DUI Conviction?


What is the penalty for First (1st) Conviction DUI in Alabama?

  • Imprisonment - Up to 1 year in municipal or county jail (no minimum mandatory sentence)
  • Fine - $500 - $2,000, plus an additional $100 fine assessed for Impaired Drivers Trust Fund (§32-5A-191.1)
  • Mandatory - 90-day license suspension, DUI school attendance

What is the penalty for First (1st) DUI conviction over 0.15 BAC in Alabama?

  • Minimum one year imprisonment, although sentencing court has the authority to suspend entire sentence
  • Fine between $1,200 and $4,200
  • Driver's license suspended for one year
  • Required DUI class
  • Ignition interlock device (in-car breathalyzer) installed for two years

What is the penalty for a Second (2nd) Conviction DUI in Alabama?

  • Imprisonment - 48 consecutive hours, up to 1 year, or not less than 20 days community service
  • Fine - $1,000 - $5,000, plus an additional $100 fine assessed for Impaired Drivers Trust Fund (§32-5A-191.1)
  • Mandatory - Not less than 48 hours consecutive imprisonment, or community service of not less than 20 days
  • DL Revocation - 1 year

What is the penalty for a Second (2nd) DUI conviction over 0.15 BAC in Alabama?

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  • If second conviction within five years, up to one year in jail
  • At minimum, either 10 days in jail or 60 days of a community service
  • Fine between $2,200 and $10,200
  • Driver's license suspended for one year
  • Ignition interlock device installed for four years


What is the penalty for a Third (3rd) Conviction DUI in Alabama?

      • Imprisonment - 60 days in municipal or county jail, up to 1 year
      • Mandatory - 60-day imprisonment which cannot be probated or suspended
      • Fine - $2,000 - $10,000, plus an additional $100 fine assessed for Impaired Drivers Trust Fund (§32-5A-191.1)
      • DL Revocation - 3 years

      What is the penalty for a Third (3rd) DUI conviction over 0.15 BAC in Alabama?

      • If third conviction within five years, minimum 120 days up to one year in jail
      • Fine between $4,100 and $20,200
      • Driver's license suspended for three years
      • Ignition interlock device installed for six years

      What is the penalty for a Fourth (4th) or Subsequent Conviction Within 5 Years?

      • Class C Felony (§32-5A-191):
      • Imprisonment - 1-10 years
      • Fine - $4,000 - $10,000
      • DL Revocation - 5 years
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      What is the penalty for Fourth (4th) DUI conviction over 0.15 BAC in Alabama?

      • If fourth conviction within five years, felony DUI with minimum term of imprisonment of two years and two days up to a 10 years
      • Fine between $8,200 and $20,200
      • Driver's license suspended for five years
      • Ignition interlock device installed for ten years


      What are presumptive sentencing guidelines in Alabama?

      The sentencing guidelines calculate the sentence for some crimes based on your previous criminal record.  It can mean the difference between going to prison or not and how long you spend in prison.  Your guidelines score determines whether you'll be sent to prison or go on probation, and how long you'll spend in prison or how long the split or suspended sentence is.

      How are the Alabama sentencing guidelines configured?

      The guidelines use a combination of the following:

      • Seriousness of the offense
      • The number of prior felony convictions
      • Number of prior adult convictions for misdemeanors
      • Whether you have served more than 1 year in jail
      • Prior felony probation or parole revocation
      • Prior juvenile delinquency or YO adjudications
      • Possession/use of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument
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      Does the Judge have to Follow the Guidelines?

      There are two different kinds of guidelines offenses: presumptive and voluntary.  Presumptive guidelines are mandatory, and voluntary guidelines are not.  

      All violent crimes are voluntary guideline offenses, as are most kinds of burglary.  All of other crimes listed below are presumptive guidelines offenses.

      But even if you score non-prison under the guidelines, the judge can send you to prison if there's an aggravating factor.  The most common aggravating factor is being on probation/bond when the offense occurred, but there are others.  These allow the judge to go above the guidelines.

      There are some restrictions on when aggravating factors can be presented, and you have the right to a jury trial on them.  

      Likewise, even if you score prison, this doesn't mean you will go to prison.  The judge can consider mitigating factors, such as making full restitution or attending drug treatment.  These allow the judge to go under the guidelines.  Furthermore, front end diversion is considered a prison sentence, so you can remain out of jail even if you score prison.

      Also, if there is a prison sentence, you can also do your prison sentence through community corrections since you are technically a state inmate in community corrections. 

          Only felonies are guideline offenses.

          The following drug crimes are Alabama presumptive guidelines offenses:

      • Possession of a Controlled Substance (including attempt, conspiracy, and solicitation) 

      • Possession of Marijuana in the First Degree (including attempt, conspiracy, and solicitation) 

      • Manufacturing Controlled Substance (including attempt, conspiracy, and solicitation) 

      • Distribution of a Controlled Substance and Marijuana (including attempt, conspiracy, and solicitation) 

      • Possession with Intent to Distribute (including attempt, conspiracy, and solicitation) 

      • Felony DUI

      • Distribution of Marihuana

      • Distribution of controlled substance

      Gadsden lawyer Dani V. Bone is an aggressive criminal defense lawyer that opened his law practice in 1997.  Sam D. Bone was named a top 40 lawyer under 40 by the National Trial Lawyer's Association in 2015.  If you need quality representation, call 256-547-1005.


          The following property offenses are Alabama presumptive guidelines offenses:

      • Forgery (all degrees)

      • Possession of Forged Instrument (all degrees)

      • Theft (all kinds and all degrees)

      • Receiving Stolen Property (all degrees)

      • Possession/Use of a Credit/Debit Card

      • Unauthorized Use/Breaking and Entering Vehicle

      • Burglary 3rd if an unoccupied business (all other kinds are voluntary)

      • Unauthorized breaking and entering a vehicle

      • Theft of services


      Gadsden lawyer Dani V. Bone is an aggressive criminal defense lawyer that opened his law practice in 1997.  Sam D. Bone was named a top 40 lawyer under 40 by the National Trial Lawyer's Association in 2015.  If you need quality representation, call 256-547-1005.

      The following offenses are voluntary guidelines offenses:

      • Assault 2nd
      • Robbery 3rd
      • Assault 1st
      • Rape 2nd
      • Sodomy 2nd
      • Robbery 2nd
      • Rape 1st
      • Sodomy 1st
      • Manslaughter 
      • Robbery 1st
      • Murder

      Gadsden lawyer Dani V. Bone is an aggressive criminal defense lawyer that opened his law practice in 1997.  Sam D. Bone was named a top 40 lawyer under 40 by the National Trial Lawyer's Association in 2015.  If you need quality representation, call 256-547-1005.

      What is cash bond in Alabama?

      What is a bond in Alabama?

      First off, let's explain what bond or bail is.  A bond is used as a form of guarantee, or promise. Basically, the money serves as a guarantee that a suspected criminal will show up for a court hearing. Similarly, a contractor might pay a bond to guarantee he will complete a project in accordance with his contract. Each type of bond requires some type of backing, or collateral, which generally comes in the form of cash. This cash may be provided by an individual or by a bondsman, which acts on behalf of individuals.

      Overview of Cash and Surety Bonds

      The biggest difference between a surety and cash bond is that a surety bond involves three parties, while a cash bond involves only two parties. Consider a bail bond of $100,000 as an example. With a cash bail bond, the defendant or one of his family members pays the entire $100,000 in cash to the court or jail. When the defendant shows up for court, he gets his $100,000 back, less any fines, courts costs, fees etc. charged by the court.

      With a surety bond, the defendant hires a bondsman to pay the bail money. In exchange for putting out the $100,000, the surety company charges a fee to the defendant, usually around 10 percent of the bail. When the defendant shows up for court, the bail company gets the $100,000 back from the courts. The bondsman makes his money by scraping the 10%. 

      What is a cash bond?

      Cash bonds are relatively simple and easy to understand. The defendant simply puts up the cash and gets released pending the trial. He gets the majority of his money back afterward, less minor court costs and fees. There is no need to contact a surety company or attempt to qualify for a bond.

      What types of cases have a cash bond?

      In Etowah County, the District Attorney's office will generally immediately put a cash bond on the following cases:

      • Trafficking
      • Murder
      • Sex Cases
      • Drug Cases that involve a weapon

      Disadvantages of Cash Bonds

      The biggest disadvantage of a cash bond is the need to come up with a large amount of cash. Many people don't have access to large quantities of cash, which could leave them stuck in jail pending a trial. In our county, a cash bond is basically a no bond.  I have only had one client pay a $10,000 or more cash bond. 

      The State uses cash bonds as a way of complying with the Rules of Criminal Procedure but still guaranteeing that you stay in jail. 

      What can be done to change a cash bond to a surety bond?

      First, you need to get an attorney.  The quicker you get your attorney involved the better possibility of changing the bond.  If I am hired, I immediately do two things: 1) File an entry of appearance in the case; 2) File a bond motion.  After I file those motions, I then speak to the District Attorney to see if they are willing to negotiate a bond. Often times, they may want to wait a bit of time to get all of the investigators' reports and interviews before they agree on anything.  If the DA does not agree, you will then have the opportunity to argue that the bond should be lowered in front of the District Judge.  

      What will the judge take into account when deciding to change your bond in Alabama?

      Rule 7.2(a) provides that Any defendant charged with an offense bailable as a matter of right may be released pending or during trial on his or her personal recognizance or on an appearance bond unless the court or magistrate determines that such a release will not reasonably assure the defendant’s appearance as required, or that the defendant’s being at large will pose a real and present danger to others or to the public at large. If such a determination is made, the court may impose the least onerous condition or conditions contained in Rule 7.3(b) that will reasonably assure the defendant’s appearance or that will eliminate or minimize the risk of harm to others or to the public at large. In making such a determination, the court may take into account the following:

      1. The age, background and family ties, relationships and circumstances of the defendant.

      2. The defendant’s reputation, character, and health.

      3. The defendant’s prior criminal record, including prior releases on recognizance or on secured appearance bonds, and other pending cases.

      4. The identity of responsible members of the community who will vouch for the defendant’s reliability.

      5. Violence or lack of violence in the alleged commission of the offense.

      6. The nature of the offense charged, the apparent probability of conviction, and the likely sentence, insofar as these factors are relevant to the risk of nonappearance.

      7. The type of weapon used, e.g., knife, pistol, shotgun, sawed-off shotgun.

      8. Threats made against victims and/or witnesses.

      9. The value of property taken during the alleged commission of the offense.

      10. Whether the property allegedly taken was recovered or not; damage or lack of damage to property allegedly taken.

      11. Residence of the defendant, including consideration of real property ownership, and length of residence in his or her place of domicile.

      12. In cases where the defendant is charged with a drug offense, evidence of selling or pusher activity should indicate a substantial increase in the amount of bond.

      13. Consideration of the defendant’s employment status and history, the location of defendant’s employment, e.g., whether employed in the county where the alleged offense occurred, and the defendant’s financial condition.

      14. Any enhancement statutes related to the charged offense.

      What happens if the District Judge denies your bond motion? 

      If the District Judge denies your bond motion, you are not without other options.  You can then file a civil suit called a Petition for Habeus Corpus.  

      Petition for Habeus Corpus in Alabama

      A writ of habeas corpus is used to bring a prisoner before the court to determine if the person's imprisonment or detention is lawful.  A habeas petition proceeds as a civil action against the State agent (usually a warden) who holds the defendant in custody. It can also be used to examine any extradition processes used, the amount of bail, and the jurisdiction of the court.
      As a fundamental instrument for safeguarding individual’s freedom against arbitrary and lawless state action, the writ of habeas corpus serves as a procedural device, by which executive, judicial, or other governmental restraints on personal liberty are subjected to judicial scrutiny.  

      The purpose of the writ of habeas corpus is not to determine the guilt or innocence of a prisoner, but only to test the legality of a prisoner's current detention.  In other words, the writ of habeas corpus only functions to test jurisdictional defects that may invalidate the legal authority to detain the person, and the reviewing court only examines the power and authority of the governmental authority to detain the person, and does not review the correctness of the authorities’ conclusion to detain the person.
      The Write of Habeus Corpus allows you to have a hearing in front of a new Circuit Court judge to determine your bond.

      What happens if the Circuit Judge Denies your Habeus Petition to change your bond?

      At that time, you can wait until after you are indicted, you will then have a new Circuit Judge to file a bond motion in front of. 

      Rule 7.2(b) of the Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure provides the recommended bail schedule.

      Recommended Range Felonies:

      • Capital felony $50,000 to No Bail Allowed
      • Murder $15,000 to $ 150,000
      • Class A felony $10,000 to $ 60,000
      • Class B felony $ 5,000 to $ 30,000
      • Class C felony $ 2,500 to $ 15,000
      • Drug manufacturing and trafficking $ 5,000 to $1,500,000
      • Class D felony $1,000 to $ 10,000

      Misdemeanors (not included elsewhere in the schedule):

      • Class A misdemeanor $ 300 to $ 6,000
      • Class B misdemeanor $ 300* to $ 3,000
      • Class C misdemeanor $ 300 to $ 1,000
      • Violation $ 300 to $ 500
      • Municipal Ordinance Violations $ 300 to $ 1,000
      • Traffic-Related Offenses:
      • DUI $ 1,000 to $ 7,500
      • Reckless driving $ 300 to $ 1,000
      • Speeding $ 300 to $ 500
      • Other traffic violations $ 300 to $ 500

      Advantages of Surety Bonds

      The primary advantage of a surety bond is that the defendant does not have to come up with enough cash to cover the entire bond. He simply pays a small percentage to the bond company and may get part of this payment back. If he shows up for court, he has no cash at risk for things like fines and fees and can instead work out a payment plan based upon ability to pay. 

      Disadvantages of Surety Bonds

      Surety companies don't automatically grant bonds to anyone who asks. Instead, they require people to apply for the bond, then weigh the potential risks and returns before deciding to issue the bond. People that are high flight risks may not qualify. Particularly, if there is a likelihood that they could skip town and go back to Mexico. As a result, that company may charge more than 10%. Surety bonds also have a higher fee associated with them than cash bonds. For example, a defendant may have to pay a small fee to the court when using a cash bond, but he has to pay both court fees and surety company fees when using a surety bond. 

      What can be done if my child's parent violates a visitation order in Alabama?

      Steps you can do if the other party violates a custody order in Alabama

      by Sam D. Bone, Gadsden Custody Attorney

      Parents may violate a visitation order by keeping a child for too long or failing to pick up a child at the right time. You have many options to use if your court order is being violated. Here are a few options:

      • Call the police: Call the police if you are unable to resolve the issues on your own. Most of the time, the police will not involve themselves in a child custody matter since it is a civil case instead of a criminal case.  However, you can often times at least ask for a police report or incident report to be filed.  This can show that you at least showed up for the exchange and gives you documentary proof.
      • Get a receipt: If your exchange between the two of you is supposed to take place at Walmart or a gas station, then buy a drink at the store.  This will show documentary proof on your credit card and your receipt that you actually showed up for the visitation.  
      • Seek Legal Assistance: Alert your attorney about the violations. Your attorney can send a letter notifying the other parent about legal penalties for not obeying the court order or if the case is ongoing they can contact the other party's attorney.  A lot of times the other attorney may have had a communication issue with their client and did not adequately explain the visitation order with their client.  They can sit down with their client and explain to them that they need to comply with the order.  This can fix things a lot of times.  Or, the attorneys can come up with a game plan to make up for the missed visitation by giving more visitation in exchange for the missed visitation. 
      • File a Motion with the Court: You can file a motion for contempt of court if the other parent continues to violate the court order. You can also request attorney’s fees and other costs with this motion. Make sure you have good reason before you involve the court.  The court does not want to get involved with petty issues. However, if it is the right thing to do involving the court can help in modifying the other parent's behavior.

      Violations of court orders can occur at any time throughout the custody and visitation process. Common infractions that result in contempt include non-payment of ordered child support or alimony, not following a court-approved visitation agreement and disregarding a court-ordered asset distribution.

      I recommend that you hire an attorney for this process to make sure that it is done right.  

      What is contempt of visitation or custody order in Alabama?

      However, it is important to note the key phrases intentionally or willfully. To be found in contempt, it must be proven that the accused party:

      1. Knew the order existed,
      2. Had the ability to comply with the order but violated the conditions knowingly, and
      3. Lacks just cause or excuse for the violation.

      What is the punishment for not following a visitation order or custody order?

      Disobeying a court child custody order may result in harsh consequences:

      • Non-violating parents could petition the court for enforcement of the order.
      • Violating parents may need to appear in court and explain why they violated the court order.
      • The court could find the violating parent in contempt of court, which could lead to jail time.
      • The violating parent could also lose custody rights previously granted by the court.