In the second of our two-part series on new laws passed by the Alabama Legislature at the most recent session, our Birmingham criminal defense lawyers are exploring the new ban on texting while driving, as well as the amendment to current stalking statutes and the addition of a charge for impersonating a peace officer.
The first is Alabama’s new ban on texting while driving, which went into effect on Aug. 1st. The law, Alabama Act 2012-291, stems from House Bill 2. It forbids anybody who is operating a motor vehicle from simultaneously texting or otherwise engaging in the use of a telecommunications device by sending, reading or typing an electronic message. Violation of this law will get you a traffic citation, with the first offense garnering a $25 ticket and the second and third offenses warranting a $50 ticket. All violations will also be recorded by the Alabama Department of Public Safety, which means it could merit an increase in your vehicle insurance rate.
The state is now the 38th in the country to pass such a measure. Still, there is some question about whether the laws have been effective in curbing distraction-related accidents in those states. In fact, a 2010 study indicated that in Louisiana, Minnesota, Washington and California, crashes involving texting drivers actually spiked after they had passed measures banning the practice. Part of Alabama’s measure requires all state, county and city law enforcement agencies to record data on text-related traffic stops and tickets.
Drivers should note that this also gives law enforcement another reason to stop you in traffic, which could lead to additional citations or even an arrest on other offenses.
Next up is the new stalking law. Previously under Alabama Code Section 13-A-6-90 and 13-6-91, a person could be charged with either stalking or aggravated stalking, which are C and B felonies, respectively. Now, a person can be charged with either first or second-degree of each. The penalties for those charged with first-degree of either of these offenses are the same as the regular charge would have been under the old law, that is a sentence of 2 to 20 years for either a Class C or B felony and maximum fines of anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000, depending on the class. The addition of the second-degree classifications essentially lowers the threshold for what can be considered a violation.
Stalking in the second-degree will be considered a Class C felony, and will be defined as anyone who has acted with improper purpose intentionally and repeatedly either harasses, calls, follows or initiates any form of communication with another person or associate of that person in a way that causes mental or emotional harm or fear. The law also requires that the offender have been warned previously to stop.
Aggravated stalking in the second-degree is essentially the same as stalking, with the exception that the actions violate a court order or injunction against said action.
Finally, the state now has a law that makes it illegal to impersonate a law enforcement officer or other local or state official or employee by either: subjecting another person to an arrest, search, seizure, detention, mistreatment, lien, assessment or other infringement on a person’s personal or property rights. Violation of this new statute, which is Alabama Act 2012-382, is considered a Class B misdemeanor, which in Alabama is punishable by up to six months behind bars and a fine of up to $1,000.