(MONTGOMERY)--Attorney General Troy King is holding a series of news conferences with law enforcement officers and victims of crime across Alabama to announce his 2009 legislative crime package. Attorney General King is offering more than a dozen bills to protect children, take profits away from outlaw gamblers, provide tougher punishments for crimes, and to benefit victims.
- Revisions to the Community Notification Act, known as the Adam Walsh Act, sponsored by Representative Ken Guin and Senator Wendell Mitchell.
This bill provides greater protection to the public by providing for more effective monitoring of convicted sex offenders, including their online activities. There would be greater information sharing between all levels of government, so that sex offenders could be more effectively tracked and monitored. The bill adds YMCAs and Boys and Girls Clubs to those facilities of which a sex offender may not live within 2000 feet. It updates Alabama law to cover technological crimes such as video voyeurism. It makes it a crime for someone else to help a sex offender circumvent the notification and registration law. Numerous additional safeguards and restrictions are included. Most of these changes in this proposed legislation are required by federal law, and noncompliance would cost Alabama loss of certain federal funding.
- Online Solicitation Bill, sponsored by Representative Steve McMillan and Senator Myron Penn.
This bill moves the law forward in two important ways. First, it specifies that attempted solicitation of a child victim is a crime, regardless of whether an actual child is involved. Currently, the law is not clear that a person can be charged with soliciting a child by computer if the person being solicited is, in fact, a law enforcement officer, and not a child. Second, it expands the law to make clear that it is a crime to solicit a child not just by computer, but by any online method to ensure that new technologies are covered. The class B felony of soliciting a child by computer could be charged if a person who is at least three years older than his victim believes he or she is soliciting a child less than 16.
- Chemical Endangerment of an Unborn Child Bill, sponsored by Representative Frank McDaniel and Senator Lowell Barron.
Currently, unborn children whose mothers abuse drugs have no protection of the law. This bill redefines the crime of possession of a controlled substance, to include also the presence of a controlled substance in a person's body. Therefore, pregnant women who test positive for a controlled substance would be subject to a class B felony. The sentencing judge could suspend the sentence and order a drug treatment program upon a first offense.
- Notoriety Bill, sponsored by Representative Cam Ward and Senator Zeb Little.
This bill also has two primary goals: to provide better opportunities and enforcement of restitution for victims of crime, and to prevent criminals, particularly those on death row, from profiting from the notoriety of their crimes. If felons created artwork or any thing of value and attempted to sell it, the profits would be seized to compensate their victims. The bill would establish mandatory minimum compensation for capital murder at $50 thousand, and for a second or more rape conviction at $10 thousand. The Attorney General could ask a court to seize the offender's assets to satisfy the restitution order, and prison officials could seize any outgoing mail to search for anything of value that could be used to satisfy restitution to victims.
- DUI Revisions, sponsored by Representatives Marc Keahey and Spencer Collier and Senator Rusty Glover.
This toughens penalties for DUI offenders, especially the very worst, and closes a loophole that kept courts from considering DUI convictions that were older than five years when they were sentencing repeat offenders. Penalties would be increased for all offenders, and those who repeatedly drive while drunk--with four or more convictions--would be sentenced to serve at least six months in jail. Penalties would also be enhanced for the "extremely intoxicated" driver, whose blood alcohol content is more than double the legal limit.
- Nolo Contendere Bill, sponsored by Representative Jamie Ison.
This bill helps keep criminals from hiding their out-of-state criminal records from Alabama Courts. Alabama law currently does not recognize "nolo contendere" or no contest pleas made in other states, where the defendant does not actually plead guilty to the crime but accepts a conviction by not contesting the charge. For example, during the 2005 trial of Jeremy Jones for a brutal rape and murder, prosecutors were barred from informing the jury of his evil past, which included three separate nolo contendere pleas to sexual assault. Attorney General King has named this The Lisa Marie Nichols Justice for Victims Act, in honor of the victim that his office convicted Jones for killing. The proposed law treats allows the State to use the nolo contendere plea to impeach the testimony of a witness, to count as an aggravating circumstance in sentencing for a capital murder, and for enhanced penalties under the Habitual Offender Act.
- Families to be Present at Executions, sponsored by Representative Billy Beasley.
Under current law, only two immediate family members of the victim may be present at an execution. This bill would increase that number to eight immediate family members. It would also allow for the presence of the prosecuting district attorney or his or her representative, and one officer from the arresting branch of law enforcement.
- Concurrent/Consecutive Sentencing and Parole Eligibility Reform, sponsored by Representative Cam Ward and Senator Ted Little.
This law would give real meaning to each consecutive sentence, in determining when an inmate becomes eligible for parole consideration. Currently, the law treats consecutive and concurrent sentences the same if the sentence is more than 30 years. Under Attorney General King's proposal, each sentence would be measured separately and for each sentence, the inmate could not be considered for parole until he or she had served one-third of the sentence or ten years, whichever is shortest.
- Photo Voter ID, sponsored by Representative Greg Canfield and Senator Larry Dixon.
Voter fraud continues to be a serious problem throughout Alabama, and this bill is designed to stop the fraud and corruption that plague Alabama elections. Any person voting in person or by absentee ballot would have to submit valid photo identification. The photo ID would have to be a driver's license or state ID card from the Department of Public Safety, passports, or other photo ID cards issued by the federal or state governments.
- Felon Voting Bill, sponsored by Representative Randy Wood.
This legislation would resolve any confusion over which convicted felons are ineligible to vote because their crimes may have involved moral turpitude. Attorney General King proposes the simple remedy that all convicted felons lose their civil and political rights-including the right to vote-and sets aside any question of whether the particular felonies involved moral turpitude. Convicted felons would not be able to vote unless and until they successfully applied to have their rights restored by the Board of Pardons and Paroles. This is a proposed amendment to the Constitution of Alabama, and would have to be ratified by the voters of Alabama.
- Reporting of Gunshot Wounds to Law Enforcement, sponsored by Representative Billy Beasley.
Under existing law, except under limited circumstances, health care providers in Alabama may not initiate reports to law enforcement about gunshot wounds and stabbings without written consent of the patient. This bill would mandate reporting by health care providers, and would supersede any privilege under state law such as doctor/patient privilege.
- Cock fighting Legislation, sponsored by Representative Cam Ward.
Cock fighting is one of the most serious forms of animal cruelty and Alabama law in this area is antiquated and inadequate, providing at most a $50 fine. This bill would make it a class C felony to fight cocks, own, train or keep cocks for fighting, keep a cockpit, or promote cock fighting. There would be a stiff fine of up to $1,000 a day for the owner or operator of the cockpit, or, up to three times the gross receipts derived from cock fighting. Property purchased with profits from cock fighting, or used in connection with cock fighting, would be subject to forfeiture. Furthermore, it would be a class A misdemeanor to be knowingly present at a cock fight.
- Bid Law Reform.
This bill would provide more transparency and accountability in governmental transactions. Current law allows certain municipalities to make purchases from elected officials, employees or board member. As a safeguard, this law adds a requirement that two items be filed with the State Ethics Commission: a written finding that conditions of the law had been followed, and a copy of the contract. Any contract that was in violation of the law would be voided, and any public official who knowingly authorized such a contract would be subject to a class C felony. Current law provides certain exemptions to bid law; if a governmental body entered into a contract without submitting it for bid, it would have to clearly state in writing what exemption was used and the report would be open to public inspection. Additional reforms would help to ensure honesty and integrity in Alabama's public contracts.
- Attempting to Elude Law Enforcement, sponsored by Representative Spencer Collier and Senator Rusty Glover.
This legislation seeks to reduce the number of individuals who flee from law enforcement, particularly by means of a vehicle. Intentional flight from law enforcement would start as a class B misdemeanor, but it would become a class C felony if a motor vehicle is used, and it would be a class B felony if the flight created a risk of injury or death to bystanders. This bill is a high priority for law enforcement and would keep our streets safer for the citizens of Alabama. Attorney General King has named this bill in honor of Montgomery police officer Keith E. Houts who was shot and killed in 2006 while making a traffic stop.
- Civil recovery for Illegal Gambling, sponsored by Representative Randy Wood.
Under existing law, there is no specific provision for a civil cause of action to recover monetary penalties for illegal gambling devices. In the past, owners and operators and others who profit from illegal gambling activities have considered the payment of criminal fines as a cost of doing business. This law provides a strict liability that would make their costs much higher than the potential profits. These new penalties would be used in conjunction with existing criminal and civil causes of action.
"Once again, the families and children of Alabama are counting on us to act, with this strong package of bills to keep our loved ones safe, to defend our citizens against those who would exploit and violate innocent victims, to provide stronger tools to assist law enforcement in their heroic efforts, and to safeguard our election system," said Attorney General King. "I urge our citizens to join me in calling upon our legislators to enact these important measures to make our state safer and to punish those who would endanger the good people of Alabama."