Jail time is a possibility for first-time drug offenders. However, in Alabama, it is not guaranteed.
According to the Alabama Sentencing Commission, the state uses worksheets to calculate whether you will go to jail for a drug offense. Though a judge might hold the threat of prison time over your head, if you agree to specific programs, you can avoid imprisonment.
Alabama scores your criminal history
If you have no prior criminal convictions, you will likely score only one point on the prison in/out worksheet. Typically, you need to score eight points to spend time in prison. Your sentence still might contain a term of imprisonment, even if you score one point.
You might avoid prison with counseling
However, the prison sentence is only a threat or deterrent to further criminal behavior. The judge might sentence you to prison but then suspend the order. Or they could impose mandatory counseling or other conditions on the threat of imprisonment if you do not comply.
Even if you can avoid prison time, pleading guilty is not always wise. First-time offenders usually have the option to enroll in counseling, which dismisses the case. A guilty conviction will always appear on your record, so you should do everything possible to avoid a conviction. If you must plea guilty, expungement is also a possibility in some cases.
Alabama has some unique options for first-time drug offenders to avoid jail time. You can avoid a conviction even if you believe a guilty plea is your only option. If you do not understand your rights, you might end up in jail with a guilty plea for no good reason.