By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Tuesday, February 23, the Alabama House of Representatives passed Winston’s Law which increases the penalties for abusing a child under the age of six. The Alabama Senate Republican Caucus had made passing this legislation one of their “Continuing Positive Progress” priorities for the 2016 Legislative Session.
Similar bills were passed in both the House and the Senate. On Tuesday, the House took up House Bill 8 sponsored by State Representative Paul Beckman (R-Prattville). Rep. Beckman substituted that bill for Senate Bill 23 sponsored by Senator Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville) which had already passed the Alabama Senate.
Sen. Chambliss told the Alabama Political Reporter, “I’m happy that the bill has passed, but certainly not happy that it needed to pass. It is unfortunate that such grievous crimes occur to those that are least able to protect themselves. If passage of this bill prevents even one child from being abused, it will be well worth it.”
State Representative April Weaver (R-Shelby County) said in a statement, “During my time in the Alabama State House, I’ve supported many bills. As a mother, none have touched me more than one we passed yesterday. Winston’s Law, will extend the possible sentence for aggravated abuse of a child under six-years-old to life in prison.”
State Representative Tim Wadsworth (R-Winston County) said, “HB8 Aggravated Child Abuse bill. Currently if child is 18 years and younger then child abuse is a class c felony and aggravated child abuse is a class b. The bill creates a class of children 6 years and younger that the crime of aggravated child abuse would be a class A.”
A conviction could be punished by up to life imprisonment. The change makes aggravated child abuse of a child under six comparable to attempted murder.
The Alabama Senate Republican Caucus wrote in a statement, “Senator Clyde Chambliss deserves immense credit for passing this crucial legislation that Senate Republicans made a priority this year.”
Republican State Senators Del Marsh, Greg Reed, and Jabo Waggoneer wrote that, “Abuse cases of children under six are often missed because these kids do not attend school yet. Making aggravated child abuse of a child under age six a Class A felony will ensure justice is served to those who abuse the most vulnerable of our population.”
Rep. Weaver said, “The legislation was inspired by the case of a four-year-old boy from Elmore County who was found abused, drugged, unresponsive, and abandoned in the backseat of a car in September. The boy’s mother and her boyfriend are currently in jail awaiting trail on aggravated child abuse and chemical endangerment charges. They won’t be eligible for life terms because Winston’s Law passed after their crimes occurred, but those who commit similar acts in the future will. In Alabama, we will not stand for people doing such horrible things to our precious children!”
Rep. Weaver said, “I had the honor of meeting Winston. He and his father were in the gallery to witness the passage of this legislation, and the members of the House gave this brave guy a standing ovation when the bill passed. I applaud Rep Beckman, Sen Chambliss and everyone from Elmore County who worked hard on this bill for all Alabama children.”
This act will become effective on the first day of the third month following its passage and approval by the Governor, or it’s otherwise becoming law.
The legislation passed the House 100 to 0.