Judiciary Committees talk about cyber crime and synthetic drugs

In a rare out-of-session joint hearing held by the Alabama Senate and House Judiciary committees, lawmakers heard proposals for laws to fight cyber crime and combat synthetic drugs.

The Alabama District Attorneys Association made the presentation at the National Computer Forensics Institute in Hoover Wednesday. The group is proposing a package of laws concerning cyber crime and cellular forensics for investigative purposes.

The proposed legislation ranges from allowing search warrants to track suspected criminals on their cell phones in real time to ways to break investigate suspected computer criminals without having to first seize the computers. Hackers and other cyber criminals use "cloud technology" to get victims' passwords and other personal information. Stat law enforcement wants to be allowed to the same to catch the suspects.

"Cloud technology right now is something we really don't have access to. In order to run a search warrant, you have to have the evidence on your machine locally. And there are some questions if we can get to the data that's on this cloud technology. We're proposing as part of this legislation that we will be able to address that through a search warrant," said Chris McCool, President of the Alabama District Attorneys Association.

The group also told the Judiciary committee members about creating an analog synthetic drug law. It would cover any new substance, not based on the chemical compound, but rather the effects.

Prosecutors would have latitude to prove on a case-by-case basis that the substance is illegal it made to mimic one already banned. Currently, those bans have to wait on DEA testing of the compound.

"It's the old adage: if it quacks like a duck, walks like a duck. That's what this statute does. If it looks like marijuana, acts like marijuana, has the same effects as marijuana, we're going to treat it like marijuana." said McCool.

"It's a tough job for us as legislators to try and pass the bills that we need to pass to try and stay ahead of the criminals. We've got to really work with the district attorneys to get some of these laws on the books, so law enforcement can prosecute these cases," said Vice Chair Howard Sanderford, Madison County Representative and House Judiciary committee.

The next state legislative session begins February 7th in Montgomery.

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