The Alabama Criminal Code - 25 Years and Counting

42 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2005

See all articles by Joseph A. Colquitt

Joseph A. Colquitt

University of Alabama - School of Law


On January 1, 2005, the Alabama Criminal Code passed its 25-year mark. The Code substantially and extensively changed the criminal law landscape in Alabama. It establishes general principles and provisions applicable to the entire range of crimes, uses common definitions, simplifies crimes and defenses, organizes related crimes into groups, and provides consistency and proportionality. The Code makes the law simpler, clearer, more rational, more uniform and more assessable.

The Code was intended to be - and is - the primary, definitive source for crimes and their definitions in Alabama, but because the Code itself recognizes that other statutes or ordinances may establish or define crimes, it is not the exclusive source for crimes. Moreover, although the Code addresses and defines most criminal defenses, it does not preclude the possibility of a lingering common law defense.

This article surveys the first 25 years of the Alabama Criminal Code. It discusses the evolution of the Code over the years, and attempts to identify some areas which may merit reconsideration. The aim of the article is not to criticize legislative or judicial choices, or mire the reader down in lengthy policy debates pronouncing where the law should go. Rather, the article identifies and discusses several areas of the Code which, through the clarity of hindsight and experience, may be ineffective, inefficient, or at odds with the original aims of the Code. The article also compares the development of Alabama's Criminal Code in certain areas with that of other states.

The article notes that the Alabama Criminal Code is a prodigious product, but it was written in the late 1970s. Times, circumstances and needs change, and the time is right to review the Code to ensure that it is current and responsive to the needs of Alabama.

Keywords: Alabama, capital murder, common law, criminal law, codes, codification, criminal, crime, death penalty, extreme emotional distress, habitual offender, hate crime, homicide, Lawrence v. TX, legislation, mens rea, Model Penal Code, murder, Ring v. AZ, separation of powers, statute, strict construction

Suggested Citation

Colquitt, Joseph A., The Alabama Criminal Code - 25 Years and Counting. Alabama Law Review, Vol. 45, p. 967, Summer 2005; U of Alabama Public Law Research Paper No. 07-16. Available at SSRN:

Joseph A. Colquitt (Contact Author)

University of Alabama - School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 870382
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487
United States
205-348-1145 (Phone)
205-348-5829 (Fax)

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