ALABAMA COURT OF CIVIL APPEALS STRIKES DOWN GRANDPARENT VISITATION ACT AS “FACIALLY UNCONSTITUTIONAL”

In a recent Alabama Court of Civil Appeals opinion, Weldon v. Ballow, on October 30, 2015, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals was faced with a challenge that the Grandparent Visitation Act was “unconstitutional on its face – that is it always operated unconstitutionally.”

When a challenge comes to the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals as a Constitutional challenge, the Court views it without regard to the lower Circuit Court’s Decision.  However, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals presumes that Acts of the Alabama Legislature are constitutional and the court must find that a fundamental right has been violated beyond a reasonable doubt to declare it unconstitutional.

The right for a parent to parent a child is a fundamental right. In 2011, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals struck down Ala. Code 1975, § 30-3-4.1 (Grandparent Visitation) as unconstitutional. The Alabama State Legislature attempted to cure due process issues with amendments, of which Weldon v. Ballow, challenges their Constitutionality.

In Alabama, the law requires that clear and convincing evidence be required to declare a parent unfit. The opinion of the Court of Civil Appeals spent a decent amount of time stating that for a third-party to intervene in a parent’s right to parent a child, a court cannot grant custody to a grandparent (or other third-party) without first declaring the parent unfit. In other words, they cannot look at the best interests of the child without first declaring the parent unfit.

The case law of Troxel led us to apply a standard that a fit parent operates in the best interests of their children. Additionally, the best interest of the child standard only applies when evaluating the best interests of the child as it relates to their two fit parents, not a third party such as a grandparent.

The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals held that the Grandparent Visitation Act, as written, allows a trial Court judge to supersede a parent’s fundamental right to parent their child based on the trial Court’s opinion that it was in the best interest of the child without showing the parent unfit. Therefore, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals held that the Grandparent Visitation Act is unconstitutional.

What is a Dependency Hearing?

A dependency hearing is basically that the natural parents or custodial parent are no longer willing or able to care for the children emotionally, physically, mentally, or educationally.

Alabama’s legal definition of dependency is:

DEPENDENT CHILD. a. A child who has been adjudicated dependent by a juvenile court and is in need of care or supervision and meets any of the following circumstances:

1. Whose parent, legal guardian, legal custodian, or other custodian subjects the child or any other child in the household to abuse, as defined in subdivision (2) of Section 12-15-301 or neglect as defined in subdivision (4) of Section 12-15-301, or allows the child to be so subjected.

2. Who is without a parent, legal guardian, or legal custodian willing and able to provide for the care, support, or education of the child.

3. Whose parent, legal guardian, legal custodian, or other custodian neglects or refuses, when able to do so or when the service is offered without charge, to provide or allow medical, surgical, or other care necessary for the health or well-being of the child.

4. Whose parent, legal guardian, legal custodian, or other custodian fails, refuses, or neglects to send the child to school in accordance with the terms of the compulsory school attendance laws of this state.

5. Whose parent, legal guardian, legal custodian, or other custodian has abandoned the child, as defined in subdivision (1) of Section 12-15-301.

6. Whose parent, legal guardian, legal custodian, or other custodian is unable or unwilling to discharge his or her responsibilities to and for the child.

7. Who has been placed for care or adoption in violation of the law.

8. Who, for any other cause, is in need of the care and protection of the state.

b. The commission of one or more status offenses as defined in subdivision (4) of Section 12-15-201 is not a sufficient basis for an adjudication of dependency.

Here are some relevant Alabama laws regarding Dependency.

Section 12-15-302

Venue generally.

(a) Dependency proceedings shall be commenced in the county where the child resides, in the county where the child is present when the proceedings are commenced, or in the county where the acts that are the basis of the dependency petition occurred.

(b) Regardless of the county where the child currently resides, when a petition is filed seeking to modify an award of custody or visitation pursuant to an adjudication of dependency, and one of the individuals who was a party to the original proceeding still resides in the county of the juvenile court of original jurisdiction, the petition shall be filed in the juvenile court of the original jurisdiction.

(c) When a petition is filed seeking to modify an award of custody or visitation pursuant to an adjudication of dependency in which all parties to the original action, including the child, no longer reside in the county of original jurisdiction, the petition shall be filed in the county where the child resides at the time the petition is filed. The petition shall be accompanied by a certified copy of the most recent order to be modified.

(d) For purposes of this section, county where the child resides means the county in which the child and legal custodian have established legal residence or have resided for six or more months of a calendar year. This term shall not include placements by a state department or agency.

Section 12-15-303

Transfer of dependency proceedings between juvenile courts within the state.

(a) If a dependency proceeding is commenced in a county other than the county of the residence of the child, the juvenile court in which the proceedings were commenced, on its own motion or a motion of a party and after consultation with the receiving juvenile court, may transfer the proceeding before or after adjudication to the county of the residence of the child for the purpose of adjudication, disposition, supervision, or review as mandated by federal and state law for children in foster care or in the custody of the state, or any combination thereof.

(b) For purposes of this section, county of the residence of the child means the county in which the child and legal custodian have established legal residence or have resided for six or more months of a calendar year. This term shall not include placements by a state department or agency.

(c) Certified copies of all legal and social records pertaining to the case shall accompany the transfer.

Section 12-15-304

Appointment by juvenile courts of guardians ad litem.

(a) In all dependency and termination of parental rights proceedings, the juvenile court shall appoint a guardian ad litem for a child who is a party to the proceedings and whose primary responsibility shall be to protect the best interests of the child.

(b) The duties of the guardian ad litem include, but shall not be limited to, the following:

(1) Irrespective of the age of the child, meet with the child prior to juvenile court hearings and when apprised of emergencies or significant events impacting the child. In addition, the guardian ad litem shall explain, in terms understandable to the child, what is expected to happen before, during, and after each juvenile court hearing.

(2) Conduct a thorough and independent investigation.

(3) Advocate for appropriate services for the child and the family.

(4) Attend all juvenile court hearings scheduled by the juvenile court and file all necessary pleadings to facilitate the best interests of the child.

(c) Before being appointed by the juvenile court, every guardian ad litem appointed in juvenile dependency or termination of parental rights cases shall receive training appropriate to their role.

(d) Nothing in this section shall prohibit the juvenile court from appointing trained volunteers in addition to guardians ad litem in promoting the best interests of the child.

(e) A guardian ad litem may be appointed to protect the best interests of more than one child of the same parent. A guardian ad litem also may be appointed to protect the best interests of both a minor (or otherwise incapacitated) parent and the child.

Section 12-15-305

Right to counsel for petitioners or respondent parents, legal guardians, or legal custodians in dependency proceedings.

THIS SECTION WAS CREATED BY ACT 2008-277 IN THE 2008 REGULAR SESSION, EFFECTIVE JANUARY 1, 2009.

(a) Upon request and a finding of indigency, the juvenile court may appoint an attorney to represent the petitioner and may order recoupment of the fees of the attorney to be paid to the State of Alabama.

(b) In dependency and termination of parental rights cases, the respondent parent, legal guardian, or legal custodian shall be informed of his or her right to be represented by counsel and, if the juvenile court determines that he or she is indigent, counsel shall be appointed where the respondent parent, legal guardian, or legal custodian is unable for financial reasons to retain his or her own counsel.

Section 12-15-306

Removing a child from the custody of a parent, legal guardian, or legal custodian.

(a) A child may be removed by a law enforcement officer from the custody of a parent, legal guardian, or legal custodian if there are reasonable grounds to believe any of the following:

(1) The child is suffering from an illness or injury or is in imminent danger from the surroundings of the child and that the removal of the child is necessary for the protection of the health and safety of the child.

(2) The child has no parent, legal guardian, legal custodian, or other suitable person able to provide supervision and care for the child.

(b) The person removing the child shall immediately deliver the child to the Department of Human Resources.

Section 12-15-307

Notice and right to be heard to be given to relatives, preadoptive parents, or foster parents.

Relative caregivers, preadoptive parents, and foster parents of a child in foster care under the responsibility of the state shall be given notice, verbally or in writing, of the date, time, and place of any juvenile court proceeding being held with respect to a child in their care.

Foster parents, preadoptive parents, and relative caregivers of a child in foster care under the responsibility of the state have a right to be heard in any juvenile court proceeding being held with respect to a child in their care.

No foster parent, preadoptive parent, and relative caregiver of a child in foster care under the responsibility of the state shall be made a party to a juvenile court proceeding solely on the basis of this notice and right to be heard pursuant to this section.

Section 12-15-308

Filing of petition and conduct of 72-hour hearing as to necessity for continuation of shelter care of a child.

(a) When a child alleged to be dependent has been removed from the custody of the parent, legal guardian, or legal custodian and has not been returned to same, a hearing shall be held within 72 hours from the time of removal, Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays included, to determine whether continued shelter care is required.

(b) Notice of the 72-hour hearing requirement, either verbal or written, stating the date, time, place, and purpose of the hearing and the right to counsel shall be given to the parent, legal guardian, or legal custodian if he or she can be found.

(c) At the commencement of the 72-hour hearing requirement, the juvenile court shall advise the parent, legal guardian, or legal custodian of the right to counsel and shall appoint counsel if the juvenile court determines he or she is indigent. If the juvenile court already has not done so, it shall appoint a guardian ad litem for a child who is a party to the proceeding. It is the responsibility of the guardian ad litem to present evidence supporting the best interests of the child. The parent, legal guardian, or legal custodian shall also be informed of the contents of the petition and, except as provided herein, shall be given an opportunity to admit or deny the allegations of the petition.

(d) All relevant and material evidence helpful in determining the need for shelter care may be admitted by the juvenile court, even though not admissible in subsequent hearings.

(e) If the child is not released and no parent, legal guardian, or other legal custodian has been notified and none appeared or waived appearance at the hearing, upon the filing of an affidavit by the parent, legal guardian, or legal custodian stating these facts and requesting a hearing, the juvenile court shall hear the matter within 24 hours.

(f) If the child is not released, the juvenile court, at the earliest opportunity in the case, including the 72-hour hearing requirement or the adjudicatory hearing, may order the parent, legal guardian, or legal custodian to provide a list of names and, if possible, addresses and telephone numbers, of known paternal and maternal relatives to the juvenile court.

Section 12-15-309

Alleged dependent child to be released when continued shelter care not required; conditions imposed upon release; amendment of conditions or return of child to custody upon failure to conform to conditions imposed.

(a) When the juvenile court finds that continued shelter care is not required for a child, the juvenile court shall order the return of the child, and in so doing, may impose one or more of the following conditions singly or in combination:

(1) Return the child to the custody of the parent, legal guardian, or legal custodian and, if necessary, place the child under the supervision of the Department of Human Resources.

(2) Place restrictions on travel, associations, or living conditions of the child pending the adjudicatory hearing.

(b) An order releasing a child on any conditions specified may at any time be amended to impose additional or different conditions.

Section 12-15-311

Dispositional hearing.

(a) If the juvenile court finds from clear and convincing evidence, competent, material, and relevant in nature, that a child is dependent, the juvenile court may proceed immediately, in the absence of objection showing good cause or at a postponed hearing, to make proper disposition of the case.

(b) In dispositional hearings, all relevant and material evidence helpful in determining the best interests of the child, including verbal and written reports, may be received by the juvenile court even though not admissible in the adjudicatory hearing. The parties or their counsel shall be afforded an opportunity to examine and controvert written reports so received and to cross-examine individuals making reports.

(c) On its own motion or that of a party, the juvenile court may continue the dispositional hearing pursuant to this section for a reasonable period to receive reports and other evidence bearing on the disposition or need for care or rehabilitation. In this event, the juvenile court shall make an appropriate order for temporary care for the child, or the release of the child from temporary care during the period of the continuance, subject to those conditions as the juvenile court may impose.

Section 12-15-313

Ordering and preparation of report concerning a child and family; ordering, conduct, and certification of findings of physical or mental examination of child prior to hearing on petition generally; examination of parent, legal guardian, or legal custodian after hearing where ability to care for or supervise child at issue.

(a) After a petition alleging dependency has been filed, the juvenile court may direct that a study and report to the juvenile court be made by the Department of Human Resources with recommendations concerning the child, his or her family, his or her environment, and other matters relevant to the need for treatment or disposition of the case.

(b) Where there are indications that the child may be physically ill or a child with mental illness or an intellectual disability, on its own motion or motion of a party, may order the child to be examined at a suitable place by a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, or other qualified examiner under the supervision of a physician, psychiatrist, or psychologist who shall certify the findings of the examiner in writing prior to a hearing on the merits of the petition.

Section 12-15-315

Permanency hearing for Department of Human Resources cases only.

(a) Within 12 months of the date a child is removed from the home and placed in out-of-home care, and not less frequently than every 12 months thereafter during the continuation of the child in out-of-home care, the juvenile court shall hold a permanency hearing. The Department of Human Resources shall present to the juvenile court at the hearing a permanent plan for the child. The juvenile court shall consult with the child, in an age-appropriate manner, regarding the permanency plan and any transition plan to independent living. If a permanent plan is not presented to the juvenile court at this hearing, there shall be a rebuttable presumption that the child should be returned home. This provision is intended to ensure that a permanent plan is prepared by the Department of Human Resources and presented to the juvenile court within 12 months of the placement of any child in foster care and no less frequently than every 12 months thereafter. The purpose of the permanency hearing shall be to determine the permanency plan for the child which may include whether, and, if applicable, when, the child shall be:

(1) Returned home on a specific date.

(2) Placed for adoption with no identified resource or with the current foster parent wherein the Department of Human Resources shall file a petition for termination of parental rights.

(3) Permanently placed with a relative with a transfer of legal and physical custody to the relative or with a transfer of physical custody to the relative but with the Department of Human Resources retaining legal custody.

(4) Permanently placed with a kinship guardian pursuant to a written request filed by the Department of Human Resources for appointment of an individual as a kinship guardian. In addition to the allegations set forth in this section, the written request shall further contain the following:

a. That granting kinship guardianship of the child to the relative caregiver is in the best interests of the child and that neither a permanency goal of return of the child to the parents of the child nor adoption would be in the best interests of the child and are therefore not appropriate permanent plans for the child.

b. That granting a kinship guardianship of the child to the relative caregiver will provide the child with a safe and permanent home.

c. That the child demonstrates a strong attachment to the relative caregiver and the relative caregiver demonstrates a strong commitment to caring permanently for the child.

d. That the relative caregiver has been approved as a foster parent pursuant to regulations of the Department of Human Resources, has completed a criminal history clearance and child abuse and neglect central registry clearance, and that results of these clearances have been provided to the juvenile court.

e. That the child has been in foster care in the care of the prospective kinship guardian for a period of not less than six consecutive months preceding the filing of the written request for appointment of a kinship guardian.

f. That, if the child is 14 years of age or older, he or she has indicated his or her position regarding the prospective kinship guardianship and, if the child is 18 years of age or older, he or she has consented to the kinship guardianship if capable of giving effective consent.

(5) Placed in adult custodial care.

(6) Placed in another planned permanent living arrangement. In the case of a child who will not be returned home, at the permanency hearing, the juvenile court shall consider in-state and out-of-state placement options.

(b) If the juvenile court determines the permanent plan under subsection (a) shall be placement in another planned permanent living arrangement, the Department of Human Resources must document to the juvenile court a compelling reason for determining that it would not be in the best interests of the child to return home, be placed for adoption with no identified resource or with the current foster parent, or be permanently placed with a relative, with a transfer of legal and physical custody to the relative or with a transfer of physical custody to the relative but with the Department of Human Resources retaining legal custody, be placed with a kinship guardian, or be placed in adult custodial care. If the child has been placed in foster care outside the State of Alabama, at the permanency hearing, the juvenile court shall determine whether the out-of-state placement continues to be appropriate and in the best interests of the child. In the case of a child who has attained the age of 16 years, at the permanency hearing, the juvenile court shall consider the services needed to assist the child to make the transition from foster care to independent living. In any permanency hearing held with respect to the child, including any hearing regarding the transition of the child from foster care to independent living, the juvenile court shall consult, in an age-appropriate manner, with the child regarding the proposed permanency or transition plan for the child. Permanency plans may be concurrent and the Department of Human Resources may make reasonable efforts concurrently towards multiple permanency goals.

(c) The permanency hearing order of the juvenile court shall address whether the Department of Human Resources has made reasonable efforts to finalize any existing permanency plan for the child.

(d) The Department of Human Resources shall provide a copy of available health and education records of the foster child to the foster parent or foster care provider at the time of placement and provide a copy of available health and education records to the foster child, at no cost, at the time the child is emancipated or released from foster care by reason of attaining the age of majority.

(e) If the permanency plan for a child is placement with a kinship guardian, the individualized service plan must contain the following:

(1) The steps that the Department of Human Resources has taken to determine that it is not appropriate for the child to be returned home or adopted.

(2) The reasons for any separation of siblings during placement.

(3) The reasons why a permanent placement with a fit and willing relative caregiver through a kinship guardianship arrangement is in the best interests of the child.

(4) The ways in which the child meets the eligibility requirements for the kinship guardianship program.

(5) The efforts the Department of Human Resources has made to discuss adoption by the relative foster parent of the child as a more permanent alternative to a kinship guardianship and, in the case of a relative foster parent who has chosen not to pursue adoption, documentation of the reasons therefor.

(6) The efforts made by the Department of Human Resources to discuss with the parent, legal guardian, or legal custodian of the child the kinship guardianship arrangement, or the reasons why the efforts were not made.

Section 12-15-316

Modification, extension, or termination of orders of custody or protective supervision generally.

An order awarding legal custody or an order of protective supervision made by the juvenile court in the case of a child may be modified, terminated, or extended on motion by any of the following:

(1) A child, whose legal custody has been transferred to a department, institution, agency, or person, requesting the juvenile court for a modification or termination of the order, alleging that the child is no longer dependent or that protective supervision is no longer necessary.

(2) A department, institution, agency, or person vested with legal custody or responsibility for protective supervision, requesting the juvenile court for a modification, an extension, or a termination of the order on the grounds that this action is in the best interests of the child.

Section 12-15-317

Who may file petition.

The Department of Human Resources, any public or private licensed child-placing agency, parent, child, or any interested person may file a petition to terminate the parental rights of a parent or parents of a child.

(1) Mandatory filing of petition by the Department of Human Resources. The Department of Human Resources shall be required to file a petition to terminate the parental rights of a parent or parents of a child, or if the petition has been filed by another party, shall seek to be joined as a party to the petition, and, concurrently, to identify, recruit, process, and approve a qualified family for adoption, in the following circumstances:

a. In the case of a child who has been in foster care in the custody of the Department of Human Resources for 12 of the most recent 22 months.

b. If a child has been abandoned.

c. If the parent has committed murder of another child of that parent.

d. If the parent has committed manslaughter of another child of that parent.

e. If the parent has aided, abetted, attempted, conspired, or solicited to commit murder or manslaughter of another child of that parent.

f. If the parent has committed a felony assault that has resulted in serious bodily injury, as defined in paragraph c. of subdivision (5) of subsection (a) of Section 12-15-319, to the child, to another child of the parent, or to the other parent of the child.

(2) Exceptions to mandatory filing shall include any of the following factors:

a. The child is being cared for by a relative.

b. The Department of Human Resources has documented in the individualized service plan, which shall be available for review by the juvenile court, a compelling reason for determining that filing a petition would not be in the best interests of the child.

c. The Department of Human Resources has not provided to the family of the child, consistent with the time period in the individualized service plan of the Department of Human Resources, such services as the Department of Human Resources deems necessary for the safe return of the child to his or her home, if reasonable efforts are required to be made with respect to the child.

Section 12-15-319

Grounds for termination of parental rights; factors considered; presumption arising from abandonment.

(a) If the juvenile court finds from clear and convincing evidence, competent, material, and relevant in nature, that the parents of a child are unable or unwilling to discharge their responsibilities to and for the child, or that the conduct or condition of the parents renders them unable to properly care for the child and that the conduct or condition is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future, it may terminate the parental rights of the parents. In determining whether or not the parents are unable or unwilling to discharge their responsibilities to and for the child and to terminate the parental rights, the juvenile court shall consider the following factors including, but not limited to, the following:

(1) That the parents have abandoned the child, provided that in these cases, proof shall not be required of reasonable efforts to prevent removal or reunite the child with the parents.

(2) Emotional illness, mental illness, or mental deficiency of the parent, or excessive use of alcohol or controlled substances, of a duration or nature as to render the parent unable to care for needs of the child.

(3) That the parent has tortured, abused, cruelly beaten, or otherwise maltreated the child, or attempted to torture, abuse, cruelly beat, or otherwise maltreat the child, or the child is in clear and present danger of being thus tortured, abused, cruelly beaten, or otherwise maltreated as evidenced by the treatment of a sibling.

(4) Conviction of and imprisonment for a felony.

(5) Commission by the parents of any of the following:

a. Murder or manslaughter of another child of that parent.

b. Aiding, abetting, attempting, conspiring, or soliciting to commit murder or manslaughter of another child of that parent.

c. A felony assault or abuse which results in serious bodily injury to the surviving child or another child of that parent. The term serious bodily injury shall mean bodily injury which involves substantial risk of death, extreme physical pain, protracted and obvious disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member, organ, or mental faculty.

(6) Unexplained serious physical injury to the child under those circumstances as would indicate that the injuries resulted from the intentional conduct or willful neglect of the parent.

(7) That reasonable efforts by the Department of Human Resources or licensed public or private child care agencies leading toward the rehabilitation of the parents have failed.

(8) That parental rights to a sibling of the child have been involuntarily terminated.

(9) Failure by the parents to provide for the material needs of the child or to pay a reasonable portion of support of the child, where the parent is able to do so.

(10) Failure by the parents to maintain regular visits with the child in accordance with a plan devised by the Department of Human Resources, or any public or licensed private child care agency, and agreed to by the parent.

(11) Failure by the parents to maintain consistent contact or communication with the child.

(12) Lack of effort by the parent to adjust his or her circumstances to meet the needs of the child in accordance with agreements reached, including agreements reached with local departments of human resources or licensed child-placing agencies, in an administrative review or a judicial review.

(b) A rebuttable presumption that the parents are unable or unwilling to act as parents exists in any case where the parents have abandoned a child and this abandonment continues for a period of four months next preceding the filing of the petition. Nothing in this subsection is intended to prevent the filing of a petition in an abandonment case prior to the end of the four-month period.

 

Ever Wondered What The Sentence Difference Is For A Misdemeanor And A Felony in Alabama?

In Alabama, here are the statutory sentences for misdemeanors:

Section 13A-5-7

Sentences of imprisonment for misdemeanors and violations.

(a) Sentences for misdemeanors shall be a definite term of imprisonment in the county jail or to hard labor for the county, within the following limitations:

(1) For a Class A misdemeanor, not more than one year.

(2) For a Class B misdemeanor, not more than six months.

(3) For a Class C misdemeanor, not more than three months.

(b) Sentences for violations shall be for a definite term of imprisonment in the county jail, not to exceed 30 days.

In Alabama, here are the statutory sentences for felonies:

Section 13A-5-6

Sentences of imprisonment for felonies.

(a) Sentences for felonies shall be for a definite term of imprisonment, which imprisonment includes hard labor, within the following limitations:

(1) For a Class A felony, for life or not more than 99 years or less than 10 years.

(2) For a Class B felony, not more than 20 years or less than 2 years.

(3) For a Class C felony, not more than 10 years or less than 1 year and 1 day.

(4) For a Class A felony in which a firearm or deadly weapon was used or attempted to be used in the commission of the felony, or a Class A felony criminal sex offense involving a child as defined in Section 15-20-21(5), not less than 20 years.

(5) For a Class B or C felony in which a firearm or deadly weapon was used or attempted to be used in the commission of the felony, or a Class B felony criminal sex offense involving a child as defined in Section 15-20-21(5), not less than 10 years.

(b) The actual time of release within the limitations established by subsection (a) of this section shall be determined under procedures established elsewhere by law.

(c) In addition to any penalties heretofore or hereafter provided by law, in all cases where an offender is designated as a sexually violent predator pursuant to Section 15-20-25.3, or where an offender is convicted of a Class A felony criminal sex offense involving a child as defined in Section 15-20-21(5), and is sentenced to a county jail or the Alabama Department of Corrections, the sentencing judge shall impose an additional penalty of not less than 10 years of post-release supervision to be served upon the defendant’s release from incarceration.

(d) In addition to any penalties heretofore or hereafter provided by law, in all cases where an offender is convicted of a sex offense pursuant to Section 13A-6-61, 13A-6-63, or 13A-6-65.1, when the defendant was 21 years of age or older and the victim was six years of age or less at the time the offense was committed, the defendant shall be sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

Services

We provide family law, divorce, criminal defense, and personal injury legal services to our clients primarily in Marshall and Etowah Counties. Our goal is to provide legal services throughout Alabama in a manner that exceeds our client’s expectations at a fair price. Whether you have a personal injury case, child custody/divorce case, want to plan your estate with a Will or a Trust, or have been charged with a criminal offense, we would love to offer a free consultation to discuss your legal issue.While we would love to help anyone in Alabama, we specifically focus on the Marshall County cities of Guntersville, Albertville, Boaz, Arab, Grant, Union Grove, and Douglas.

What To Do In A Car Wreck.

Car Wrecks

If you are involved in an automobile accident here are some things that you can do that will be beneficial to you and your potential case.

  • Remain Calm

Becoming upset because of an accident may lead to emotional decisions that may create additional problems for those involved. It is important to try to remain calm and stay at the scene of the accident. Do not make statements admitting fault or negligence.

  • Notify the Police & Seek Emergency Medical Services if Needed

You will need to contact the local authorities to report the accident and request emergency medical services if the accident involves injuries that will require medical treatment. Many times after an accident a victim may think that they have not sustained any injuries just to have the symptoms of the injuries appear several days after the accident. It is always best to be evaluated by a medical professional after an accident to make sure that any injuries that were sustained in the accident are discovered, treated, and documented.  Local law enforcement will need to report to the scene of the accident and complete an accident report. For legal claims to be brought in court against a negligent party an accident report must be completed by the local law enforcement agency and filed with the Alabama State Police Department. The accident report may also be used in court as evidence of the accident.

  • Exchange information with the other driver(s)

Law enforcement will generally provide for the exchange of information between drivers involved in an accident but Alabama law (Alabama Code Section 32-10-2) requires that in the event of a car accident, the driver give his name, address, and the registration number of the vehicle he is driving, shall upon request exhibit his driver’s license to the person struck or the driver or occupant of or person attending any motor or other vehicle collided with or damaged and shall render to any person injured in such accident reasonable assistance, including the transportation of, or the making of arrangements for the transportation of such person to a physician or hospital for medical or surgical treatment, if it is apparent that such treatment is necessary or if such transportation is requested by the injured person.

  • Notify Your Insurance Carrier

Alabama law requires that you must notify your insurance carrier when you have been involved in an accident or they may not have to pay your insurance claim.

  • Make Notes About the Accident and Keep Important Records

In the event of an accident it is important to document the details of what occurred including the names of the police officers who took the accident report, the names of those involved in the accident, traffic conditions, weather conditions, statements made by individuals at the scene, location information, and information about any video cameras that may have recorded the accident. Keep a record of any bills paid for medical treatment, car repairs, or other related expenses and any paperwork you may receive from insurance companies.  The more detailed your notes are the easier it will be later when you need to produce this information for litigation purposes.

  • Contact Guntersville Law, LLC

Call us to set up your free consultation and speak to an attorney who will be able to help you deal with the insurance companies and other parties to protect your interests and get you the help you need during this difficult time.

Please call us and schedule a free consultation 256-571-1529.

Guntersville Law, LLC is a private law firm and is not associated with any Government entity. As required by the Alabama State Bar: “No representation is made that the quality of the legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers.”

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