‘We were shocked when we found out’: New Alabama law protects identity of charged juvenile offenders

Mobile County

MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — A new Alabama law says juvenile suspects get to remain anonymous until after conviction, even in murder cases where the suspects are charged as adults. That law, called the Alabama Confidentiality Act, hit the books on Aug. 1, and already it’s protected the identity of a 15-year-old charged with murder in Mobile.

The new law was approved in the last legislative session. For suspects 17 and younger, their name, photo, likeness, or anything identifying them is protected and “May not be published in any printed or electronic media nor open to public inspection.”

The people who enforce and prosecute cases like this don’t like this new rule. Those against the new law, including District Attorney Ashley Rich, say if a kid commits a grown-up, violent crime, they should face the music in public, like an adult.

“We were shocked when we found out this was the new law,” Rich said, who said the community needs to know who’s committing crimes. “This is just a mechanism by which these particular 16 and 17-year-olds get to hide behind this law.”

Just last week the Alabama Confidentiality Act protected the identity of a 15-year-old charged with shooting and killing 16-year-old Chavan Scruggs.

“The public needs to know who you are because more often than not, they’re going to get out on bond and go right back into those same neighborhood or community and I think neighbors need to know who’s living next to them,” Rich said.

Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran agreed with Rich.

“If you are a juvenile who has been charged as an adult then your information should be released just like other adults who are charged with that same crime,” said Cochran.  

This new law also covers previous cases if the accused still fall under the age limit. The only time the information becomes public is after a conviction.

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