Alabama's law adding enhanced penalties for those convicted of felonies in the furtherance of a criminal enterprise is now in effect statewide.

Senate Bill 143 (SB143) by State Sen. Will Barfoot (R-Pike Road) provides penalty enhancements for felonies committed to further the interests of any criminal enterprise, attaches a mandatory minimum sentence to the possession or use of a firearm during the commission of certain crimes, and certifies suspect aged 16 and older as adults when charged under the act.

The legislation was developed with input from Attorney General Steve Marshall, who supported it throughout the legislative session. It received final passage in the legislature and was signed into law by Gov. Kay Ivey in June. It is enforceable as of Sept. 1.

The bill initially used the word "gang." However, Senate Democrats removed the term and replaced it with "criminal enterprise."

The legislation defines a criminal enterprise as "any combination, confederation, alliance, network, conspiracy, understanding, or other similar arrangement in law or in fact, including a street gang of three or more persons, through its membership or through the agency of any member, that engages in a course or pattern of criminal activity."

An individual can be labeled as a criminal enterprise member if they meet three or more of the following requirements at the time of the planning or "commission of" the underlying offense.

  • Admits to criminal enterprise membership.

  • Is voluntarily identified as a criminal enterprise member by a parent, guardian, informant or physical evidence.

  • Has a tattoo identified as used by a criminal enterprise.

  • Associates with one or more known criminal enterprise members.

  • Has authored any communication indicating responsibility for the commission of any crime by a criminal enterprise.

  • Has been observed in the company of one or more known criminal enterprise members four or more times.

Gang violence has been on the rise in cities like Mobile and Birmingham. Marshall has also suggested the legislature propose a statute similar to the federal government's Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, which enacted stiffer criminal penalties and a civil cause of action for crimes associated with organized crime.

See also: Gang war: Birmingham Mayor Woodfin calls on 5 gangs to 'chill and put the guns down'

Additionally, foreign gangs, such as MS-13 (Mara Salvatrucha 13), have a growing presence in the state, according to some lawmakers.

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