They're trying to add as many to the list as possible:
Tougher surveillance law could put Peeping Toms on sex offender list
Published: Tuesday, June 12, 2012, 9:07 AM Updated: Tuesday, June 12, 2012, 3:38 PM
By Paul Gattis, The Huntsville Times
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- Robert James Bell of Decatur has already been convicted seven times for criminal surveillance. He's currently in jail in Morgan County for three more charges of surveillance, as well as three burglary counts. Warrants for surveillance are also outstanding in Huntsville and Michigan.
Yet, because Bell kept slipping through the criminal justice system to commit the same crimes again, Decatur city prosecutor Emily Baggett took action.
After Baggett pushed for tougher penalties, Sen. Arthur Orr sponsored a bill that was signed into law by Gov. Robert Bentley in April.
Now a conviction of criminal surveillance for the purpose of sexual gratification could, at the discretion of the prosecutor, result in placement on the sex offender registry.
"This one case brought the issue to the forefront," Baggett said Monday.
According to Baggett, Bell is 50 years old with ties to Michigan but he is listed in court records with a Spring Avenue address in Decatur. He would spy on women in bathroom stalls in restaurants and department stores, said Baggett.
A pattern developed in Alabama, where Bell was arrested for surveillance in Decatur and Athens, as well as the case pending in Huntsville.
There were similar incidents in Michigan, where a felony extradition order has been filed.
"If you really think about it, if somebody does this a lot, and some people do, you want to be aware," Baggett said. "It's kind of scary that somebody can continue to watch somebody in the bathroom and nothing really ever happens."
Senate Bill 148 changed that. It's now aggravated criminal surveillance to spy on someone with a reasonable expectation of privacy - such as a bathroom stall in a restaurant - "for the purpose of sexual gratification."
The crime has been upgraded to a Class A misdemeanor - which meets the level of requiring to register as a sexual offender, Baggett said. A second conviction on aggravated criminal surveillance is a Class C felony.
Previously, each conviction was a Class B misdemeanor.
Orr, who sponsored the bill, said the issue resonated with the Legislature because neighboring states have tougher criminal surveillance laws. And Alabama's previous law "was not enhanced for repeat offenders," Orr said.
"It's not something that will hopefully be used a lot," Baggett said. "But with technology, there is a concern about sexual voyeurism. Our laws don't really, in comparisons to other states, don't have the protection."