Cities in Alabama are instituting $500 fines for violating strict evening curfews during the coronavirus pandemic.
But in Mobile, city officials are concerned that expensive fines occurring at a time when much of the economy is stalled, could be more harmful for residents.
The City Council, on Tuesday, officially adopted a curfew and instituted fines of $100 for a first offense and $200 for a second and subsequent offense.
Mobile’s curfew essentially functions as a 24-hour decree, with a nighttime curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., and a “stay at home” order from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., through the end of April. The curfew was announced on Friday by Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson moments before Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced her plans for a statewide “stay at home” order.
“It has nothing to do with making money,” said Councilman Fred Richardson said. “We’re seeking compliance and we hope we don’t have to give anyone a ticket, and that everyone out there will comply.”
Initially, Mobile considered a $50 maximum fine for violating the curfew, but city officials acknowledged the amount was too low.
On the other hand, instituting fines up to $500 – in effect in nearby communities like Saraland – are viewed in Mobile as too much.
City Attorney Ricardo Woods said there is “a balance” and that the city doesn’t want to put unemployed residents in costly situations.
“We have people losing jobs and we don’t want to put someone in a position where $100 plus court costs up to $360 puts them into a financial bind during this economic turmoil,” said Woods. “But we want them to take it seriously.”
Most cities, in recent weeks, have adopted ordinances with maximum fines of up to $500 for violating the city-enforced curfews.
Violations to Birmingham’s curfew are punishable up to $500 and 30 days in municipal jail. According to city spokesman Rick Journey, the city’s intent is not to arrest anyone.
“We are primarily focused on breaking up groups and – if required in certain cases – non-custodial arrests,” said Journey, in an email to AL.com. He said there have been no citations issued since Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin announced the 24-hour curfew two weeks ago.
(Birmingham police) say people comply when asked,” said Journey.
Montgomery and Tuscaloosa have similar penalties in place. Tuscaloosa plans to begin enforcement this weekend, according to Mayor Walt Maddox.
The curfews have popped up at the same time Ivey issued a shelter-in-place ordinance that became effective Saturday. Violators to the governor’s order can face a misdemeanor by local police.
According to the Alabama Attorney General’s Office, “most, if not all, municipalities” have adopted state misdemeanor offenses via ordinance which allows for the charges to be heard in municipal court. If there is no ordinance in place, the violates can be brought before a district court.