Alabama Law Makes It a Crime for Students to Give Teachers Hams, Turkeys, Gift Cards

By PHILLIP RAWLS | December 7, 2011 | 5:10 PM EST

Paying with plastic in Seattle. (AP File Photo/Elaine Thompson)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama student who gives a teacher a Christmas ham or a $25 gift card will be violating Alabama's tough new ethics law. The possible penalty? Up to a year in jail and a $6,000 fine.

The law allows public officials and employees to accept gifts with only "de minimis" value, but it doesn't give any dollar amount. As schools get ready to let out for the holidays, the State Ethics Commission has been flooded with calls about what students can give their teachers.

The commission said Wednesday "hams, turkeys or gift cards with a specific monetary value are not permissible." Homemade cookies, coffee mugs and fruit baskets are OK.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Alabama's ethics law is applied more broadly than any other state.