Click on this frog for a brief overview of our sites. This frog is a coqui, which like Soto is 100 per cent Puerto Rican. Like the Southern Bob White, it screams its name. Soto adapted this design from an aboriginal engraving found at the Taino ceremonial mounds in Utuado, the birthplace of the Mendez side of his family.

This is a brief overview of the criminal justice system in Mobile. We hope that you find this useful if you find that  you must travel here to assist a loved one or a client.  If you just want specific information, the local links will take you directly to a specific area. In addition to this overview there is an interactive map, links to some of the institutions and drawings to help you recognize the buildings. The numbers in parentheses correspond to the map identification numbers.

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Where the hell is Mobile, Alabama?

By Air   By Bus
Lodging Jails Government

Persons "catch a case" (find themselves in court) either because of an arrest resulting almost immediately as the result of some infraction that took place in front of a law enforcement officer or as the result of an investigation that has culminated in their indictment by a grand jury. This distinction can be important, especially in federal court where there are definite time guidelines. An arrest will result in being jailed and brought before a magistrate for the purpose of discussing bond. In addition, in federal court there are time deadlines for presenting an arrestee for an initial appearance and to discuss the matter of detention.

A criminal case can be prosecuted in state court, in federal court, or both. A state prosecution may result in a later decision to prosecute the matter in federal court. Our state court procedure is the one typically found in most states. Mobile Municipal Court (on the second floor) addresses misdemeanor infractions that take place within the city limits. Mobile County District Court (courtrooms on the fourth floor, clerks on the third) handles misdemeanors that take place within the remainder of the county. In addition, it handles preliminary hearings in felony matters.

Mobile is a small metropolitan area located at the southernmost tip of the state of Alabama. The city of Mobile is the largest city in the area (and the second largest city in the state). The metropolitan area actually comprises the counties of Mobile and Baldwin and stretches from the state of Mississippi to the state of Florida, a distance of approximately fifty miles.

Downtown Mobile contains the municipal, state, and federal courthouses as well as the Mobile Metro Jail and most of the governmental agencies that you will encounter. It is also the hub of the port of Mobile.

The downtown area consists of a loop (named after baseball player Hank Aaron, a hometown son). The Aaron Loop is formed by Beauregard, Broad, Canal, and Water Streets. Interstate 10 (I-10) feeds into Water Street. Interstate 10 runs through both counties in an east/west direction. Interstate 65 (I-65) connects with Interstate 10 for north/south traffic.

GETTING THERE, GETTING HERE

By Air

Many times it's easier (or cheaper) to get here via Pensacola (Florida), Gulfport (Mississippi), or New Orleans (Louisiana). If you are coming from a city in Florida (for example Orlando, Tampa or Miami) you might get here directly and not have to wait in Atlanta. There's an old saying that those who die here still have a layover in Atlanta. Pensacola is nearly the same as Mobile because that airport is only one hour from Mobile. The airport in Mobile is on the other side of the city (nearly thirty to forty-five minutes depending on traffic conditions). However, a limousine or taxi from Mobile airport is much cheaper than the one from Pensacola. From Mobile airport a taxi will cost you from twenty-five to thirty dollars to downtown Mobile.

By Bus

The bus system in Mobile is horrible, it's not like the ones in Miami, New York or Atlanta. The service is slow and almost non-existent. The Trailways or Greyhound bus station in Mobile is about twenty minutes from the central business district which is where the majority of the traditional institutions are located. You can take a taxi from the station and it will cost you from ten to twelve dollars.

Lodging

Mobile is not a tourist city. It's a city that is difficult to visit. If you are coming here to visit somebody that is in jail or with someone that has a judicial hearing you are going to have to decide the best way to get here and how to spend the night. Depending on how much you want to spend there are few locations downtown that are reasonable but the list has limits. However, if you have an automobile there are plenty of places to stay. The best places that are centrally located to downtown are the Adams Mark, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express (a cheaper version), The Malaga and Admiral Semmes. There are other places but be careful. Mobile may seem like a sleepy little town but crime exists here just as in other place, especially in the cheaper downtown hotels.

Jail
Mobile has concentrated all of its municipal jails into Mobile Metro Jail. (20) It is on St. Emanuel Street and is located off Canal near the interstate. This jail houses the municipal, state, and federal prisoners. The jail has very strict rules if you are coming from a long distance make preparations beforehand or speak with your attorney to see if there is something that can be done. The telephone number to make an appointment to visit an inmate is (251)574-4734. Remember, this is Mobile, hardly anyone speaks Spanish. If you travel by taxi write the address to the jail on a piece of paper and show it to the driver. Also, the jail requires a photo I.D. for every visitor.
Baldwin county is situated near Mobile and also has a jail that houses federal prisoners (and those prisoners from that county). To get to the Baldwin County jail take I-10 to State Highway 59 and travel northward to Bay Minette.

A defendant who is unable to pay for the services of an attorney might be able to have the court appoint one. The federal system has just organized a Federal Public Defender's Office (9), located at 2 S. Water Street (251-433-0910). In either case, the courts will look at the ability to pay an attorney. In addition, there are many pitfalls associated with the forms that the courts may require a defendant to file (and swear to). Speak with an attorney first. When hiring an attorney, find out what percentage of his or her practice is dedicated to criminal law. Ask others. A common complaint about attorneys, appointed or retained, is that they "skinned me up". Good sources of information about criminal defense lawyers are law enforcement officers, courthouse personnel, and inmates. Remember, practicing criminal law is different than civil practice and state court practice is very different from federal court practice.

We'll be glad to confer with you. Our address is Madden and Soto, Attorneys, 465 Dauphin Street, Mobile, Alabama, 36602. (11)Or Give us a call at 251-432-0380.

Government

Federal court, which is officially called the United States District Court for the Southern District of Alabama (3) is located at the corner of St. Louis and St. Joseph Street. The municipal and state courts are located at Government Plaza (16) at 205 Government Street. This is the largest building in the Mobile "skyline" and it is the building with the those two curved roofs ("scoops") sitting on top of it. Located in this building are the municipal court, the state courts, the Mobile County District Attorney's office, The city and county governments and many public offices. Approximately one block east is situated the Mobile County Sheriff's Office (17) at 101 Government Street. The Mobile County Probate Court (18) is located next door at 109 Government Street. You can also find the tax assessor's office, tags, titles, etc. here.

The Mobile Office of the FBI (2) is situated at the corner of St. Louis and Water Streets. Many of the federal offices are situated near Bienville Square (8). The square is a very pleasant place to eat your lunch or hang out while you're waiting for someone who is at the United States Attorney's Office (10), the United States Probation Office, 201 St. Michael Street, (6) or United States Pretrial Services, 182 St. Francis Street (7). United States Customs and DEA are both located (where else?) near the malls where I-65 and Airport Boulevard intersect. State Probation is located in the Bay Haas Building which is a few blocks west of Broad Street at 1150 Government Street.

You can take the Wallace Tunnel to go eastward or travel westward to reach Interstate 65. You can also take Government Street (called Government Boulevard after it crosses Interstate 65). Going east on Government takes you through the Bankhead Tunnel and also connects you with I-10. Traveling northward on Water Street you will find a connector that has just been built that allows those traveling north on I-65 to bypass the city's malls.

The grand juries, both federal and state, sit monthly and decide whether or not to indict a person. The federal grand jury sits at the federal courthouse at the request of the United States Attorney's Office and the state grand jury is convened by the state prosecutor, the District Attorney. An indictment is the formal accusation and is a requirement that can only be waived by the person accused.

After indictment a person is summoned to court to answer the charges. This is called an arraignment ("arrangement", in street vernacular). In the federal system the trial court is called District Court and an arraignment is generally before a magistrate judge. In state court an arraignment is before a Circuit Court Judge (sixth and eighth floor courtrooms). The issue of bond is revisited. In just about all criminal cases an arraignment plea is "not guilty".

Alabama's preliminary hearing is called a "probable cause hearing" in most states. At the preliminary hearing the district judge hears the testimony (remarkably, because the district court is not a "court of record" the testimony given at a preliminary hearing is not transcribed unlessa party makes private arrangements for a court reporter) in order to determine whether not to send the matter to the state grand jury. If the court sends the matter to the grand jury the matter is "bound over" and the defendant must make a new bond. The threshold for sending something to the grand jury is very low and the majority of the cases are bound over. Even if the court does not send the matter to the grand jury the district attorney's office may take the matter to the grand jury.

Many of the state judges hold what is called a status hearing. A status hearing is a date set by the court for the parties to reach a plea agreement. If the court does not accept the plea agreement reached with the state then the defendant is allowed to withdraw his guilty plea. On the other hand, plea agreements reached after the status date are called blind pleas because the court is free to impose any sentences it wishes. Depending on the judge, the status date can be a very important deadline.

Places to Eat In The Mobile Area

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