Council Tables Controversial Minor Offense Ordinance

A proposed ordinance is stirring up a lot of confusion regarding how minor offenses should be handled is being tabled for future discussion.

Mayor Stimpson announced Monday he was introducing a proposal that would allow officers to issue tickets for minor crimes like Possession of Marijuana 2nd degree and Public Intoxication instead of handcuffing and carting offenders to jail where the current rule allows them to sign their own bond.

“The confusion around it certainly calls for this motion to be tabled so we can make sure we’re consistent with state law and we don’t have unintended consequences,” Public Safety Director James Barber said.

“I’m disappointed that we got off on the foot that we did. I’ll accept responsibility for that. We probably could have done a better job of reaching out, so everyone understood it rather than it just showing up,” Mayor Sandy Stimpson explained. “I’m really grateful with how the  city council is approaching it and the media for trying to understand it because this could have a community outcome that could help everybody.”

According to the city attorney, this proposed ordinance doesn’t actually change the criminal penalties for minor crimes as stated in Alabama Statutes, but it treats them similar to traffic violations, which are still considered a criminal offense. if you get pulled over for speeding, you usually have the option to pay a ticket or dispute it in court. Barber said this ordinance would act in a similar manner to free up responding officers.

“What’s happening today is people are being arrested for minor violations and transported to metro jail. Of course, they’re  handcuffed and transported where they’re allowed to sign a bond and appear in court. What we’re asking is for the option of doing that on the scene of the violation rather than transporting them, which keeps the officer on the street longer where he can deal with more serious violations,” Barber said.

Nonetheless, the proposal sparked a lively discussion and endless questions, so council members and city officials will likely look over the document with a fine-toothed comb before bringing it up for a vote.




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