By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Wednesday, May 31, 2017, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall (R) and Barry Matson, Executive Director of the Alabama Office of Prosecution Services, thanked Governor Kay Ivey for signing Legislation, SB301, that strengthens Alabama’s sex offense laws. The legislation was a joint proposal of the Attorney General’s Office and the Office of Prosecution Services, the State agency that provides resources to District Attorneys’ offices throughout Alabama.
AG Marshall said in a statement, “I appreciate the leadership of Senator Figures, Representative Wood, and all members of the Legislature who played a role in bringing this important Legislation to fruition. This Legislation gives Alabama prosecutors one more tool to protect our children and other vulnerable persons from the devastating effects of sexual misconduct.” Attorney General Marshall also thanked the Office of Prosecution Services and the State’s district attorneys, heralding them “for recognizing the need for this law and for their steadfast dedication to protecting the people of Alabama.”
Executive Director Matson said, “Government has no higher calling than the protection of its citizens, especially its most vulnerable,” said Executive Director Matson. “I am grateful to the sponsor, Vivian Figures, members of the Legislature, and Governor Kay Ivey for the enactment of SB 301. The leadership of the Attorney General’s office under Steve Marshall has demonstrated their strong commitment to protecting Alabama’s children.”
Gov. Ivey said, “The most important duty of government is to keep our people safe. I proudly signed SB301 because it protects the vulnerable in our society by ensuring that reporting requirements for sex offenders are strict and enforced.”
Governor Ivey added, “Our laws must keep up with changes in our technology. I am thankful for the work of Senator Figures, all Legislators, and Attorney General Steve Marshall in securing bipartisan passage of this important Legislation.”
SB301 was signed by State Senator Vivian Figures (D-Mobile). Figures said, “This new law is an important step forward in updating our criminal code to combat new and troubling forms of sexual misconduct, many of which are made possible by evolving technology. As sponsor of this Legislation, I thank the Attorney General’s Office and the Office of Prosecution Services for their leadership in developing and promoting the proposal. I also thank Governor Ivey for signing the bill into law.”
State Representative Randy Wood (R-Anniston) carried the bill in the Alabama House of Representatives.
SB301 is an attempt to bring Alabama’s criminal code up-to-date with observed trends in sexual misconduct, particularly when technology is involved. The bill creates five new criminal offenses and changes the existing sex-offender laws to strengthen reporting requirements and clarifies parts of the existing statute.
According to information provided by the Attorney General’s office, the law primarily creates four new sex-related criminal offenses:
Distribution of a private image, also known as “revenge porn” or “nonconsensual pornography,” will now be a class A misdemeanor for the first offense and class C felony for subsequent offenses. This covers distributing intimate, private images of someone when the depicted person did not consent to the transmission and the perpetrator intended to harass or intimidate the depicted person.
Sextortion is the use of threatening communications, often online, to induce the victim to engage in unwanted sexual activity. This will now be a class B felony.
Assault with bodily fluids has increasingly occurred in recent years with the use of seminal fluid to attack a victim; attacking Law Enforcement personnel with bodily fluids is also a regrettably frequent occurrence in jails and prisons. This will now be a class A misdemeanor (or a class C felony if the offender knows he or she has a communicable disease).
Directing children to engage in sexual acts will be a class C felony if the offender directs children to engage in sexual contact with one another; it becomes a class A felony if the offender directs the children to engage in sexual intercourse or deviate sexual intercourse.
The Legislation also amends existing law in various respects. For example, the legislation broadens the existing offense known as “electronic solicitation of a child” to cover certain grooming behaviors by would-be child molesters. The act also strengthens and clarifies various provisions of the Alabama Sex Offender Registration and Community Notification Act. For example, it allows judges to exempt juveniles from sex-offender registration if they were found to have engaged in sexting-type behaviors.
Class A misdemeanors are punishable by up to one year in jail, class C felonies by one to 10 years’ imprisonment, and class B felonies two to 20 years.