Boothe: ‘Moral turpitude’ bill provides needed clarity

Published 3:00 am Saturday, March 11, 2017

A bill sponsored by Rep. Mike Jones, R-Andalusia, the Felony Voter Disqualification Act, gained unanimous approval in the House Thursday, 102-0.

At present, the Constitution says that Alabama citizens shall lose the right to vote when convicted of a crime of moral turpitude.

But Jones said Alabama statute has never defined moral turpitude.

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“As a result, boards of registrars across the state had their own definitions of moral turpitude,” he said. “We needed to make it uniform.”

Rep. Alan Boothe, R-Troy, said the law enforcement and judicial community requested the legislation to clear up confusion.

“Situations where judges were unsure about status of formerly convicted felons,” Boothe said. “There needed to be some sort of organizational system. This makes it clear to judicial authorities.”

Jones said the bill establishes the “worst of the worst” crimes as crimes of moral turpitude, including capital murder, rape, solicitation of sexual conduct with a child, human trafficking, terrorism, drug trafficking, aggravated child abuse, robbery, theft, and forgery.

“These are bad crimes, and some that nobody would ever hesitate about (calling moral turpitude). We’re not talking about simple possession or DUIs.

“It does include everything involving theft from securities fraud to Theft I and Theft II,” Jones said. “This would include crimes committed by the wealthy, upper class to robbing a store or stealing from a business.”

A similar bill was introduced last year, but Jones said some of the laws about some of the offenses included had to be updated because technology has changed. One change was made from last year’s bill, he said, and Democrats and Republicans worked on a compromise bill.

“That’s what we’ve done, is pass a compromise bill from Republicans and Democrats,” he said. “It may not be perfect, but it’s why we got a 102-0 vote.”

The bill is set for its second reading in the Senate next week.

“The Secretary of State has been pushing for this for a quite a while,” Jones said. “It needs to be done.”

“Instead of disenfranchising voters, we want to make sure those who should are legally allowed to vote,” he said.