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September 29, 2013

Hanceville passes police, municipal court ordinances

HANCEVILLE — The Hanceville City Council approved a slew of new ordinances Thursday aimed at streamlining the municipal court operations and boosting revenue.

The council also passed another ordinance (598) that would give police authority to demand a person whom an officer had reasonable suspicion was involved in possible criminal activity to verbally identify him or herself so that police could check his or her warrant status. Hanceville Police Chief Bob Long proposed the ordinance to give his officers “a little more ground to stand on” when investigating suspicious people, especially in the wake of the new state gun law that codifies open carry.

“Say we have someone outside a business at midnight with what looks like burglary tools,” Long said. “We just want to make sure someone is not a wanted criminal.”

Since the new gun legislation took effect Aug. 1, police have responded to a handful of incidents where patrons were concerned about people openly carrying their firearms into Hanceville businesses, Long said.

“People have already been pushing the envelope,” Long said. “There are test cases out there. This could prevent us from being one of them.”

An existing state law already gives police the authority to ask someone for their name, birth date and other identifying information so police can run his or her information through the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) to determine if that person has outstanding warrants, City Attorney Dan Willingham said. Those in violation of the new ordinance could face a $300 fine and up to 90 days in city jail.

Willingham requested he and Long rework a second proposed ordinance that would allow police to cite someone for not obeying an officer’s lawful command. Willingham said he thought the proposed ordinance in its current form was “overly broad” and would not stand up to a constitutional challenge. Willingham pointed to the civil rights clashes in Birmingham in the 1960s where demonstrators refused to disperse when ordered by Birmingham police. 

 Hanceville Municipal Court Clerk Angie Finley proposed ordinances 595, 596 and 597 in an effort to make the court system more efficient. Ordinance 595 removes  burdensome accounting requirements such as keeping a log of paper receipts in addition to entering information into the court’s computer system.

Ordinance 596 creates an extra $25 warrant recall fee in the event a defendant pays his or her fines after a warrant has already  been issued but not yet executed. Ordinance 597 brings municipal court costs in line with Cullman County District Court costs. The change is expected to increase municipal court revenue by 28 percent, Finley said.

The Hanceville City Council conducted other business Thursday:

* Approved invoice from Thompson Insurance for $28,888.13 for general liability insurance.

* Tabled approval of revised Wallace State agreement to allow city officials more time to review it.

* Discussed the purchase of court software from Tyler Technologies to administer probation plans for court costs. The software would cost $85,000 over five years.

* Heard reports from police Investigator Scott McDonald and Police Chief Bob Long about their job responsibilities.

* Tabled approval of fiscal year 2014 budget, which will begin Oct.1, to allow city officials more time to review it. A budget work session is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday.

* Approved installation of two new stop signs at intersection of Kentucky Avenue and Hickory Street.

* Reviewed bank accounts’ balance sheet and year-to-date budget versus actual.

The council will hold a work session  6:30 p.m. Oct.10 followed by its meeting at 7 p.m.

*Tiffeny Owens can be reached email at towens@cullmantimes.com or by phone at 256-734-2131, ext. 135.

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