A number of laws came into effect in 2014 in Alabama. This paper looks at the most important laws among these. The criterion used to judge importance is the implication that the law has on the public, as demonstrated by media attention on the law and the involvement of stakeholder groups in supporting or expressing reservations about the law. Notably, the Alabama photo ID law was passed and assented in 2011, but a court process delayed its implementation. However, it will become usable in the state for the first time in 2014.
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The sweeping gun law was passed in 2013, but its full implementation began in 2014 due to administrative reasons; hence, its inclusion in this research. At the same time, there is the Amendment to Parental Consent law on minors’ right to have abortions, which has been the most controversial of the laws coming into effect in 2014. Lastly, the paper also discusses the Alabama expunge law that allows qualifying individuals to have their criminal records removed, as long as they are not convicted for the accusations.
Gun rights in Alabama law
The sweeping gun legislation passed by lawmakers in mid-2013 takes effect in 2014 to allow people to carry guns in public places. For example, people can now carry guns in their cars to places of work. The preconditions are that the gun is locked inside the car and other safety features are put in place to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. Part of the reason for passing the bill was to prevent companies from infringing on the rights of individuals secured by the 2nd Amendment. The amendment is mainly clarification of existing provisions stating that carrying a visible pistol or a holstered one in public cannot be termed as disorderly conduct in itself.
The firearm law states that all citizens hold the right to bear arms for personal defense or the state defense, which is also a privilege provided by the US constitution. However, the gun laws in Alabama also recognize gun permit laws from other states, which in return also recognize gun laws and permits of Alabama. A revised law that is coming into effect in 2014 is dealing with the handling of handguns around the state.
Previously, the sheriffs had to provide individuals with permits that would allow them to carry pistols. These permits would be recognized in the state and in other states that reciprocate the recognition of gun permits. However, Alabama is making an amendment to the gun law to influence the need for permits when carrying handguns. Signed by the Governor in 2013 into law, the sweeping gun legislation assumed effect in 2014, and its biggest aim is to ensure that the 2nd Amendment protection for the people of Alabama remains protected.
With a permit, individuals could carry a handgun (mostly a pistol) in public when the weapon is concealed. The law seeks to move the state affairs in the way they were in the days when citizens carried guns freely. According to the law, there is no need to seek special privileges for a person to take a gun from one point to another. It is a constitutional right to bear arms, thus the law amendment is simply making it possible for individuals to exercise their rights. This comes after a court’s ruling that the constitutional right is not absolute. This ruling forces people to have permits as a defense of their rights to move around with concealed guns (Kirby 1).
The law regulates the issuance of handgun permits by the local sheriffs, allowing them up to 30 days to make a decision on issuance or decline. It also gives applicants the right to appeal when they are denied permits. The applicant for a permit has to go to a local sheriff’s office for the permit application process and pay the required fee. The issuance will depend on many things, among them the criminal record of the applicant. This provision will be essential in ensuring that only people who are deemed safe to the community go on bearing arms concealed.
Alabama photo voter ID law of 2011
In 2011, lawmakers in Alabama voted for the requirement of voters in subsequent elections to produce a photo ID for them to be able to vote, but the application of the law faced legal hurdles. It is in 2014 that the law will be making an impact after clearing with the U.S. Supreme Court. The striking down of section 5 in Shelby Country v Holder in 2013 paved the way for the implementation of the 2011 law in 2014 (Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, Attorney General par. 1-5).
Alabama is not the only state having Voter ID laws, as other states also have to meet requirements set by the Help America Vote Act that was passed in 2002. The Act seeks to ensure that citizens who registered via mail produce a photo ID if they did not do so at the time of registration. However, specific states have specific laws that improve the interpretation and provisions of HAVA. In the U.S. and Alabama, in extension, photo IDs are recognized as military ID, driver’s licenses that are effective, and the US passport. Student identification may also be used in some cases.
In Alabama, all voters will need to produce a valid photo ID since June 2014. The Secretary of State’s Office in Alabama can provide voters with a free photo ID. In addition, voters may also get one from a registrar’s office in their county or mobile location set up to facilitate the voting exercise during primaries and other elections (Alabama Secretary of State Office 1).
Alabamians are not new to the ID requirement during voting; they will just need to make sure the IDs they present have a valid photo, thus they can no longer rely on other non-photo identifications, such as their utility bills or the Social Security cards. Some have even used their birth certificate copies, but they will now have to only use photo IDs (Brown, Sinclair, and Packard 3). Part of the intention is to reduce voter fraud, but those who opposed the law thought of it as an unnecessary hurdle in exercising the right to vote because it would lock out many poor people and minorities who, for various reasons, might not have an easy time in getting the photo ID (Chandler 1).
Amendment to Parental Consent law on minor’s right to have abortions
The amendment of the parental consent law allows fetuses to have legal representation in cases where minors are seeking to have an abortion. The law essentially places a woman, in this case, a minor, on trial for seeking approval to have a procedure that is accepted and regulated in the constitution. Under the amendment, the law can be used to summon witnesses and other relevant people in the case to provide evidence for or against abortion for minors, meaning that it forces the minor, mostly a teenage would-be mother, to disclose her pregnancy to a number of people; yet, in ordinary circumstances these people would not have any word about the pregnancy.
The law allows courts to hire a representative for protecting the interests of the fetus during court proceedings. Thus, if parents of a minor are not involved in consenting to their daughter’s abortion, then the girl will have to deal with the entire court system to get state permission for carrying on with the abortion (Culp-Ressler 1).
The law seeks to enact the parental consent provision as a way of ensuring that minors are safe from their own immaturity, because the state already sees them as incapable of making adult decisions in many cases. It also considers the decision to adopt as one that only adults should be making, thus the need for parental consent. In addition, the amendment aims to improve the family structure and protect it because of its role of acting as a valid, viable, and important social unit to promote proper upbringing of minors and to correct social ills (State of Alabama 2).
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Thirdly, the amendment was initiated in light of the need to retain the parents’ right to raise their children. Consequently, allowing children to do as they wish in some cases, such as making decisions on abortion independently, was viewed as snatching away the rights of parents to raise children as members of their households (State of Alabama 2).
The abortion law has been the most controversial ones among the laws coming into effect in 2014, partly due to the ongoing debate about the right to abortion and whether abortion is ethical or not. However, the law on amending the parental consent does not specifically mention the moral debate on abortion or the moral grounds for the practice. Instead, it merely lists it as a critical decision being made by a person. It also stipulates that minors may not be utterly mature to make the decision on their own (State of Alabama 5).
Critics mention that in cases where the parents are involved in the pregnancy of their child, the law does not let the minor bypass the process of seeking consent as it was the case before. Instead, it lets the court go ahead to appoint representatives to speak in the best interest of the unborn. The problem could get ugly when a district attorney appointed by a judge on behalf of the fetus proceeds to summon witnesses for testifying against the minor, all in an effort to restrict the minor from having an abortion.
In essence, the case of determining the right of minors to abort is now a criminal one, where one party that is losing can go ahead and appeal against the court’s ruling with no restrictions on the number of witnesses that could be called in the case. The problem with the appeal provision is that by the time it is thrown out or successful won against, the minor might have already extended her pregnancy beyond the 20 week provision that the law provides for abortion. The minor will be forced to carry the pregnancy in the absence of health threats to the mother as a result of the pregnancy, even after winning the court process (Guttmacher Institute 2).
Alabama criminal records expunge law
The law to remove criminal records for people who have been arrested, but not convicted, is helpful for those who know its implications and how to use it. The law comes into effect when thousands of people have been living with criminal records merely because they happened to fit the suspect’s description, or they were at the wrong place at the wrong time. Even when the courts acquit them of any wrongdoing, they are stiff forced to walk around with a criminal record.
Multiple records would render a person almost not suitable for many jobs that only hire people with a clean record, as the reputation of organizations and that of employees is of paramount importance to some organizations (“Alabama.gov: Office of the Attorney General” par. 2-4). Nevertheless, there will still be associated costs of using the law to get criminal record expunge. The most notable costs will be legal fees paid to attorneys, although the court administrative process is set at USD 300.
The law is specific about what types of recorded offenses can be removed from a person’s criminal record. Among the things mentioned in the law are arrest records, bookings, arrest photos, and index references for public record searches. It ensures that other documents that refer to the charge or electronic files referring or linking to the arrest or charge are also removed.
However, the process of applying this new law will not be helpful to individuals who have violent felony charges, as it explicitly mentions the violent felony charges as an exception. In addition, the law is incapable of clearing away a record after a person has been convicted. Therefore, as it stands, wrongful conviction is not yet covered and individuals suffering from it will have to seek other legal assistance.
There are requirements, both in the law process and about the accused, that have to be present or take place for the law to apply in non-violent felony. They include the fact that the suspect is not found guilty, or he gets a no-bill by a grand jury. The person in question could also have done 1 year in a corrective program. Such programs would include mental health and drug treatment, as well as attendance to veterans’ court. Many people in Alabama have their charges dismissed. If they last more than five years since the dismissal without having a refilling of the case, then they are free to go.
The person pursuing the dismissal in person or through the help of attorneys has to provide associated documentation to facilitate the exercise for the law to apply. The documentation includes arrest records available at the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center. Some aspects of the law concerning the application of dismissal and various wait periods are still contentious, but many stakeholders, such as the public, are welcoming the new law.
Applicants need to petition for expunction and then have a sworn statement declaring their certification of the requirements set out in the new law concerning the clearing of records. They also have to state whether they have used the law previously to seek removal of their criminal records (Legislative Reference Service 1).
Alabama Secretary of State Office. “Voter ID Implementation.” 2014. Web.
Alabama.gov: Office of the Attorney General 2012. Web.
Brown, Jean, Julie Sinclair, and Ed Packard. Implementation of Alabama Photo Voter Indentification Law. 2011. Web.
Chandler, Kim. “Alabama Photo Voter ID Law to be Used in 2014, State Officials Say.” Alabama Media Company 25 (2013): 1. Print.
Culp-Ressler, Tara. “Alabama’s Abortion Law Puts Minors On Trial And Gives Their Fetuses A Lawyer.” 2014. Think Progress. Web.
Guttmacher Institute. State Policies in Brief: An Overview of Abortion Laws. Washington, DC: Guttmacher Institute, 2014. Print.
Kirby, Brendan. “5 Questions Answered on Alabama’s Concealed-carry Gun Law.” 2014. Alabama Media Group. Web.
Legislative Reference Service. “Summaries of General Laws Enacted and Constitutional Amendement Proposed by the Legislature of Alabama.” 2012. Web.
Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, Attoney General. No. 12-96. U.S. Supreme Court. 2013. Print.
State of Alabama. “HB494.” 2014. Alabama Legislative Infomation System Online. Web.