Ward sponsors child abduction prevention act

Alabama law enforcement officials soon may have a more powerful weapon to combat child abductions across the state, as a local state representative will sponsor a statewide abduction prevention bill.

Rep. Cam Ward, R–Alabaster, recently partnered with former state Chief Justice Gorman Houston to represent Alabama at the national Uniform Law Commission as it drafted the Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act.

After returning from the commission, Ward sponsored the abduction prevention act in the State House of Representatives, which will consider the bill when it reconvenes in January 2010.

“Childhood abductions is one of the most frightening and heartbreaking crimes faced by parents and families today,” read a Ward press release. “According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, despite the familiar image of news of children abducted by predatory strangers, the majority of childhood abductions are perpetrated by family members.”

Through the act, courts are instructed to consider several abduction indicators, like previous abductions, attempts to abduct the child, threats of abduction, domestic violence, negligence and refusal of a parent to obey child custody determinations. The act also lays out indicators tied to international child abductions.

If the court, through considering the indicators, determines there is a risk a child will be abducted, it can enter an order imposing travel restrictions, prohibiting a person from removing a child from the state or giving the child’s name to the U.S. Department of State’s Child Passport Issuance Alert Program.

In the case the court determines abduction is imminent, it can issue a warrant to take the child, or direct law enforcement officers to locate and return the child.

If passed, the act would also lay out guidelines for establishing jurisdiction between states in the event of an abduction.

“This bill will go a long way to protect the children of Alabama,” Ward said. “Although we already have good laws in place in regard to child abductions, the legislature needs to set some specific guidelines for the judicial system to ensure that our children are as safe and secure as possible. This bill will do that.

“This bill is a product of a lot of hard work and dedication on the part of a number of individuals who need to be commended for their commitment to the children of Alabama,” Ward added.