MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WAFF) - A potential game-changer for law enforcement is waiting for state lawmakers when they return to Montgomery.
It’s titled the “Agent Billy Clardy III Act."
Rep. Rex Reynolds, R-Madison County, prefiled House Bill 14, a bill that would allow law enforcement to wiretap felony drug offenders.
Reynolds said the bill is designed to provide officers with safer options.
“You know what if they had the ability to have a state wiretap and may have been able to go after that offender in a different way, other than a very volatile, dangerous, drug buy, undercover buy situation,” he said.
The bill authorizes local law enforcement to wiretap felony drug offenders if the secretary of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, the state attorney general, and a circuit court judge all sign off.
The wiretapping would be limited to felony drug cases and could only be used if all other methods have failed or are too dangerous to be attempted.
Once the recording begins, officers would have a ticking clock (up to 30 days) to get what they need, but the judge could extend the recording time if he or she deems probable cause.
The officers would be required to report to the judge during the recordings, and would have to turn over their recordings to the court.
Madison County Sheriff’s Office spokesman investigator Brent Patterson said the bill would significantly help deputies on the streets.
“I believe I can speak for everyone in law enforcement that something like this would be huge,” he said.
Officers would be held to a strict standard on when and how they use the wiretapping technology and could face felonies if the power is misused.
Patterson said deputies will “do our job.”
“At the end of the day, we’re not going to worry about that kind of stuff. We’re going to do our job and we’re going to present it to the court system and let them decide, ‘hey did we do what is right?’ and ‘did we have the elements and the criteria in the laws to present it to a grand jury?’" he said.
Representative Andy Whitt, R-Madison County, cosponsored the bill with Reynolds and said he doesn’t foresee any push back once other lawmakers take a look.
“Any time you tap someone’s phone or a device that raises concerns, and it should raise concerns, but we’re targeting the worst of the worst, our drug traffickers, and we need to give this tool to our law enforcement to do their job,” he said.
Reynolds said he worked with Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, when writing the bill.
WAFF 48 News reached out to England, but he has not yet returned a request for comment.
The legislative session begins February 4th.