Madison County lawmaker proposes bill that would allow Alabama law enforcement agencies to use wiretaps

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala - One Alabama lawmaker wants to bring a bill to the legislature that would allow local law enforcement to use wiretaps.

This bill is specifically written to allow Alabama law enforcement officials to use wiretapping for drug trafficking cases. The bill's sponsor, Representative Rex Reynolds, was formerly the Huntsville Police Chief. The bill is named the 'Agent Billy Clardy III Act.'

Clardy died in the line of duty during a drug operation on December 6, 2019.

"This is a critical tool for narcotics investigations. No better example. You know one of the SBI guys brought it up to me after we lost Billy. That what a perfect example of if these agents had this tool, that investigation may have went a different direction rather than that very dangerous, undercover point to point by like that," Representative Reynolds said.

The bill would allow investigators to intercept wire or electronic communications under certain circumstances. He said law enforcement would target drug traffickers for wiretapping.

"Trafficking has to be over 2.2 pounds of illicit drugs like marijuana, cocaine, and heroin. We certainly think with the opioid trafficking that's going on in Alabama this is going to be a great tool," he said.

Right now, federal agencies can use wiretaps. Currently, when an Alabama law enforcement agency would like to use this tool they need to work with a federal agency.

"Federal agencies, numbers-wise, aren't near as many as local agencies and state agencies, so we want to give them that tool. We don't want them to have to reach out to the federal level. In this case, it was marijuana, under the FBI enforcement that the marijuana may not have been a priority and where on a state level they can make that choice locally and target those traffickers," Reynolds explained.

Reynolds said there are several steps the wiretap request must go through before an agency could use this tool, including ultimately being approved by a  circuit court judge.

"It originates through a local agency, it goes to SBI and ALEA, ALEA director has to sign off on it and so does the Attorney General. So, you're going to have a lot of eyes on this affidavit to request this wiretap before it ever goes to a circuit court judge," Reynolds said.

And if a law enforcement agency abuses this tool he said there are both criminal and civil penalties outlined in the bill.

Reynolds brought a very similar bill forward last session. While it was approved in committee it did not make it to a vote on the House floor. He said he believes that was due to the fact that it was introduced later in the session.

"We were working with the Attorney General's office and ALEA and SBI on the bill. And it took a while to kind of write that around all the agencies. This year we've got a jump start on it. We worked during the summer to get the bill right," he said.

He has pre-filed the bill this time around, and he expects to see it sometime during the first few weeks of the session.

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