Imagine the horror of having your home or business plundered by thieves. Not a good feeling, but even harder to fathom that the bad guys who did it could end up suing you in court.
State lawmakers say an existing legal loophole allows thieves to file civil lawsuits against home and business owners if they end up getting injured while intruding. But a bill working its way through the Alabama State Legislature would put an end to the practice.
If approved, House Bill 46 would grant immunity to property owners from civil lawsuits by criminals in almost all circumstances. State Senator Arthur Orr (R) of Decatur is one of the bill's supporters, and says the proposed law is long overdue.
"If this bill is passed, no more of this in Alabama," said Orr, who is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee that recently cleared the bill. "It would put a stop to what I would consider frivolous lawsuits by criminals, and not letting them profit for being somewhere that they should not have been in the first place."
Orr said there have been instances where thieves filed lawsuits against their intended victims, and even won monetary judgments in some cases. Some of the thieves were injured by property owners acting in self-defense, while other criminals harmed themselves through accidents at the crime scene, such as tripping over a piece of furniture.
House Bill 46 has already passed unanimously through the Alabama State House, and now awaits a vote in the State Senate.
Alabama's current "Castle Doctrine" law already grants wide-ranging protection to property owners in the criminal half of the court system.