By Susan Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY–On Thursday, a bill defining “Home invasion” and outlining the penalties that would be applied passed out of the Senate with an amendment removing specific penalties.
The Alabama Home Invasion Act of 2012, SB 310, sponsored by Senator Ben Brooks (R-Mobile) was amended by Senator Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro).
The bill was designed to make the crime of home invasion a Class A felony whose penalty would not include the possibility of probation, parole or suspended sentence.
Brooks said, “The essential difference is in the penalty as much as anything else.”
He said that the problem of home invasion is increasing but is not defined within the existing law. The only way to press charges for the crime is to “make it fit into the crime of breaking and entering, or robbery or theft or one of the existing crimes.”
Singleton proposed the amendment removing the language concerning probation, parole or suspended sentence. “Sen. Brook’s home invasion bill I thought went a little bit over the top making it a Class A felony for a crime that is basically not on the books at this point and time. This bill, the way he wanted it, would not allow the person to have probation or parole,” said Singleton. “They would have to stay in prison, if they committed the crime, with a Class A felony which gives you 20 to 25 years in prison. They would have to stay every day in prison. I think under our probation/parole system, everybody deserves a second chance.”
Brooks pointed to a precedent under the Pharmacy Robbery Act of 1982 which he says has the same provision. It reads, “ineligible for parole, probation or suspended sentence.”
“What my sheriff tells me when this Pharmacy Robbery Act was passed [the instances] of those crimes went down very quickly. This is about deterring home invasion that we hear about so much. People coming in our homes, doors being kicked down, etc. we want to deter that,” said Brooks.
Brooks said that removing this language from the bill made it not nearly as effective as it should be.
Singleton said removing this language was important especially if a person entered a dwelling but no one was present. “It could be an occupied dwelling doesn’t mean that somebody has to be at home. You could have gone into a store and someone come out and say that you [have committed] Class A felony. Then you would have to spend time in jail for the rest of your life.”
Singleton said that this puts the law back to where it is currently on the books saying that he thinks the penalties are stiff enough.
Brooks says he will talk to representatives in the House and see what they think.
It was a crucial part that was taken out today.