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Lawmaker sponsors bill to increase penalties for rioters

The bill also creates the new crime of assault against a first responder in the first and second degrees.

The Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery.

Republican State Representative Allen Treadaway announced that he is introducing legislation that will create new crimes and penalties for individuals who incite or participate in riots. The legislation would also provide additional protections for police officers and other first responders when such violent outbursts take place.

Treadaway is a retired Birmingham city police captain. He said that he began drafting the legislation in the summer after a political protest in downtown Birmingham became a riot that resulted in widespread damage and burglaries of multiple businesses as well as the vandalization of public property.

“Because the freedom of speech is so important, our founding fathers made it the first enumerated right in the U.S. Constitution, but when protest turns to violence, that liberty no longer applies,” Treadaway said. “We must protect Alabama businesses, public property, and first responders from the kind of mob rule that took over the streets of Birmingham this summer, and my legislation establishes a firm first step toward achieving that goal.”

Treadaway’s legislation would require that a person who is arrested for knowingly participating in a riot be placed on a 24-hour hold before becoming eligible for bail. Upon conviction, the individual would face a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 days in jail and an order of restitution. The 24-hour hold requirement in this and other sections will require the passage of an accompanying constitutional amendment.

Under Treadaway’s legislation, any person who knowingly participates in the new crime of “aggravated riot,” which requires bodily or property damage to result, would also be held for 24 hours before becoming eligible for bail. Upon conviction of the Class C felony, the individual would face a mandatory minimum sentence of six months and an order of restitution.

Those convicted of riot, aggravated riot or inciting a riot would become ineligible to hold public office in Alabama.

The bill also creates the new crime of assault against a first responder in the first and second degrees. Those arrested for the offenses are initially held for 24 hours before becoming bail-eligible. A first-degree conviction, which would be a Class B felony, results in at least one year in jail, a $15,000 fine and an order of restitution. A second-degree conviction, classified as a Class C felony, carries a minimum six-month jail sentence, a $5,000 fine and a restitution requirement.

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Any government entity in Alabama that defunds a local law enforcement agency would lose eligibility for any state funding, grants, revenues or other forms of aid. In addition, any entity that defunds a law enforcement agency would become civilly-liable for any violent crime that results from the action.

Purposely blocking an interstate would become a felony with accompanying fines and incarceration.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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