MONTGOMERY — Amended legislation adding enhanced penalties for offenders involved in "criminal enterprises" passed the Alabama Senate unanimously on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 143 by State Sen. Will Barfoot (R-Pike Road) provides penalty enhancements for felonies committed to furthering 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 individuals aged 16 and older as adults when charged under the Act.

Barfoot said on the Senate floor on Wednesday, "I think we came to a landing point where everybody is in a position where we think it's a much better bill." 

Some Senate Democrats spoke against an earlier version of the bill in a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting in April but supported the amended version passed on Wednesday.

"Everybody on this side of the aisle cares just as much about eliminating crime as everybody on this side of the aisle," State Sen. Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham) said. "We have little old ladies that want to sit on their porch in peace. We have communities that don't want to hear gunshots and gunfire as well."

The amendment passed on Wednesday replaces "gang" with "criminal enterprise" in parts of the bill. 

"It addresses criminal enterprise," Barfoot said. "Those that sought to do criminal deeds on behalf of not just themselves, but organizations, entities, or groups that would benefit from those crimes."

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."

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said after the legislation passed the Senate, "My Office worked hand-in-hand with law enforcement to develop the Gang Prevention Act, as we continue to see the proliferation of violent street groups in too many of our communities." 

"Gang violence is a cancer and tough sentences are the antidote," Marshall said. "I applaud the Senate for moving forward with this legislation and prioritizing the safety of our citizens."

The bill now heads to the House for their consideration.

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