The Alabama House of Representatives passed legislation on Thursday which would allow state and local law enforcement to conduct drug trafficking investigations with the aid of court-approved wiretapping.

House Bill 17 is sponsored by State Rep. Rex Reynolds (R-Huntsville).

According to the synopsis, HB17, “Would authorize the Attorney General to submit an application to a circuit court judge to intercept any wire or electronic communication if there is probable cause to believe an individual is committing, has committed, or is about to commit certain felony drug offenses. This bill would specify the procedures for obtaining an intercept order, the information that must be included in an intercept order, the limitations of an intercept order, and the means by which the communication is to be intercepted. This bill would provide for the extension of intercept orders under certain conditions and would prohibit the destruction of recorded communications for a specified time frame. This bill would allow an investigative officer to submit a written request to the Attorney General, through the Secretary of the Alabama State Law Enforcement Agency, requesting the Attorney General apply for an intercept order. This bill would specify under what conditions recorded communications may be disclosed and would provide civil and criminal penalties for certain unauthorized disclosures.”

Federal authorities have had the ability to conduct electronic wiretapping for generations, but Alabama local and state law enforcement agencies presently have to work with a federal law enforcement agency in order to get access to this capability.

Reynolds amended the bill on the House floor to add more electronic areas where the intercepts can occur.

Reynolds said that any request to do a wiretap would have to be approved by the Secretary of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency and the Alabama Attorney General before it could be taken to a judge. He said that giving narcotics investigators this tool would allow them to avoid potentially deadly direct face-to-face dealings with narcotics traffickers.

Reynolds said that the bill is named in honor of Huntsville Agent Billy Clardy III, who was killed by a dangerous drug trafficker during a narcotics investigation on Dec. 6, 2019.

Reynolds is a former Huntsville Chief of Police.

HB17 was co-sponsored by Republican Reps. Andy Whitt, Shane Stringer, Proncey Robertson and Matt Simpson. HB17 passed the Alabama House of Representatives with broad bipartisan support on an 84 to 7 vote.

HB17 now goes to the Alabama Senate for their consideration. The bill passed out of the House last year, but got bogged down in the Senate.

Thursday was day nine of the 2022 Alabama Regular Legislative Session.

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