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‘John-shaming’ bill advances to Senate with change

By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday approved a bill allowing for the public release of photos of those who solicit prostitutes, but members requested a significant change.

As written and passed by the House, House Bill 271 by Rep. Merika Coleman, D-Birmingham, would allow for the release of law enforcements’ mugshots of those arrested for hiring or seeking to hire prostitutes. The Senate committee wants it changed on the Senate floor to allow for the release of photos only upon convictions.

“It’s as simple as this: you’re innocent until proven guilty,” Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham said.

Current law doesn’t allow without a court order the release of photographs of anyone arrested for prostitution.

Coleman’s bill, previously dubbed the “John-shaming bill” is intended to discourage soliciting prostitutes and is an effort to curb human trafficking and prostitution.

Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, is a co-sponsor on the bill. On Wednesday she said requiring a conviction before releasing photos diminishes the purpose of the bill, but she’d like to see it advance. Differences could be worked out in a conference committee, she said.

The bill has two remaining legislative days to get final approval and go to the governor.

In 2019, a similar bill from Coleman and Collins was vetoed by the governor because of a drafting error that changed the intent. That error happened when the Senate added language to require a conviction.

The judiciary committee also approved:

  • House Bill 395 to allow manslaughter charges for anyone who sells illegal drugs to someone who later dies from their use;
  • House Bill 494 to allow for the creation and enforcement of non-disparagement obligations in contracts;
  • House Bill 252 to create the crime of female genital mutilation, and;
  • House Bill 202 to clarify that grand jury witnesses can publicly discuss what they knew about a situation prior to their testimony.

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