MONTGOMERY, Ala. – On Thursday, the Alabama House of Representatives passed a bill that would add law enforcement officers to the list of groups protected from hate crimes and enhance penalties for the commission of any crime against officers if the crime was committed because of the officer’s status as a member of law enforcement.
The official synopsis of House Bill 59 reads, in part:
Under existing law, when a person is found guilty of committing a misdemeanor or felony and it is shown beyond a reasonable doubt that the commission of the crime was motivated by the victim’s race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, or physical or mental disability, the person is subject to heightened criminal penalties.
This bill would provide that when a person is found guilty of committing a misdemeanor or felony against a law enforcement officer and it is shown beyond a reasonable doubt that the commission of the crime was motivated by the victim’s employment as a law enforcement officer, the person is subject to heightened criminal penalties.
The bill, if it becomes law, would add the underlined text to the opening paragraph of the Code of Alabama Section 13A-5-13, amending it to read “The Legislature finds and declares the following: ‘(1) It is the right of every person, regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, or physical or mental disability, or employment as a law enforcement officer, to be secure and protected from threats of reasonable fear, intimidation, harassment, and physical harm caused by activities of groups and individuals.’”
Similar changes would be made anywhere in that code where protected groups are listed.
Under the proposed law:
- A class A felony against a law enforcement officer would carry a minimum 15 year sentence.
- A class B felony would carry a minimum 10 year sentence.
- A class C felony would carry a minimum two year sentence.
- Habitual felony offenders would be subject to additional penalties.
In the House, the bill received 92 votes in favor from both sides of the aisle, including all three of the Cullman area’s Representatives and all Republicans present, 16 Democrats and no votes against. Twelve Democratic representatives were present but abstained, and one republican Representative was absent.
HB59’s sponsor, Rep. Rex Reynolds, R-Huntsville, former Huntsville police chief, posted on social media after the vote:
“The House debated for over two hours today, but so proud of the strong message sent to those that wish to harm our Law Enforcement Officers, and a sign of unity with bipartisan support of the House Bill addition of Law Enforcement being added to Alabama’s Hate Crimes Bill. As Attorney General Marshall said in the press conference yesterday, ‘We are not going to tolerate any attacks on our officers.’”
The bill goes next to the Alabama Senate.
Sen. Garlan Gudger, R-Cullman said, “The Senate will start on it with assignment to committee on Tuesday.”
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