In a signing ceremony Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Robert Bentley signed his name to “Winston’s Law” as the bill’s namesake looked on.
SB23, sponsored by Sen. Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville) and carried in the House by Rep. Paul Beckman (R-Prattville), makes aggravated child abuse a Class A felony for children under six. The crime now carries a potential punishment of life in prison and a $60,000 fine.
The bill’s name comes from an Elmore County boy whose mother was indicted for charges of chemical endangerment of a child and aggravated child abuse. During committee hearings on the bill, testimony was given that the boys injuries were so severe that pictures could not be shared with the press or the public.
During the signing ceremony, Bentley joked and teased the boy and presented him with one of the pens used in signing the legislation. Further, Bentley noted that he was signing the actual bill – a departure from other ceremonies where bill copies have been used.
On hand for the ceremony were Chambliss, Beckman and a host of child activists and family members.
“This is a good bill,” Bentley said, thanking lawmakers for drafting the legislation. “This is an important issue dealing with the protection of our children.”
Before the signing of “Winston’s Law,” prosecutors were only able to charge child abusers with lesser crimes, often resulting in a punishment not strict enough for the crime. With this legislation, prosecutors will be able to seek maximum penalties for the most vicious abusers.
A second bill dealing with child abuse penalties, “Ava’s Law,” which strengthens penalties for offenders whose abuse results in the death of a child, was passed by the legislature last week.