Tracy’s Law On The Books, Expands Definition Of Stalking In Alabama

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With the Alabama state government taking the final steps to put the newly minted Tracy's Law into effect on Wednesday, stalking victims should have greater recourse for reclaiming their lives.

The new law improves the legal tools available to fight stalking.

Madison County Assistant District Attorney Shauna Barnett explains, "We had in place some harassment laws, some harassing communications laws.  We did have a stalking law in place.  It basically enhances those things for some behavior that wasn't already covered."

Now the courts will have more robust definitions to work from, with new behaviors now recognized as stalking.

Barnett says, "This adds following somebody, because previously it wasn't illegal to repeatedly follow from work, home, whatever."

Tracy's Law seeks to prevent future crimes like the murder of its namesake - Tracy Morris - in 1999.

Law enforcement sees stalking as a path to more serious crimes.

Barnett adds, "It is a gateway.  The behavior is very indicative in certain circumstances of future behavior.  It's very scary for the victim."

Now the courts have the power they need to step in and protect those victims.

Barnett says, "Even though the law didn't cover it, it didn't mean that it didn't affect victim's lives and put them in fear.  So it's great to have something that can maybe remedy that and stop it before it happens."

The law can be enforced by police immediately, according to Barnett, but there's a lag time before those cases find their way to the courtroom.  She says one could be tried in six months to a year.

The district attorney's office can use criminal history with the new law as well - opening the door for those already dealing with stalkers.

As Barnett points out, "Stalking is definitely one of the few crimes that we are allowed to use a pattern of behavior.  Most crimes don't allow that.  If you've got a drug crime, we don't get to use the fact that you've got a pattern of drug behavior in charging this."

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