(a) There is hereby established within the department the Insurance Fraud Unit. The commissioner shall appoint the necessary full-time supervisory and investigative personnel of the unit who shall be qualified by training and experience to perform the duties of their positions. The commissioner shall furnish offices, equipment, operating expenses, and necessary personnel to maintain and operate the unit.
(b) The unit shall perform all of the following duties:
(1) Initiate independent inquiries and conduct independent investigations when the unit has cause to believe that any insurance fraud may be, is being, or has been, committed.
(2) Review reports or complaints of alleged insurance fraud from federal, state, and local law enforcement and regulatory agencies, persons engaged in the business of insurance, and the public to determine whether the reports or complaints require further investigation and, if so, to conduct these investigations.
(3) Conduct independent examinations of alleged insurance fraud and undertake independent studies to determine the extent of insurance fraud.
(c) In performing its duties, the unit shall have the powers to do all of the following:
(1) Inspect, copy, or collect records and evidence.
(2) Issue and serve subpoenas.
(3) Administer oaths and affirmations.
(4) Share records and evidence with federal, state, or local law enforcement and regulatory agencies.
(5) Execute arrest warrants for criminal violations of this chapter.
(6) Arrest upon probable cause without warrant a person found in the act of violating or attempting to violate this chapter.
(7) Make criminal referrals to the Attorney General.
(8) Conduct investigations outside of this state. If the information the unit seeks to obtain is located outside of this state, the person from whom the information is sought may make the information available to the unit to examine at the place where the information is located. The unit may designate representatives, including officials of the state in which the matter is located, to inspect the information on behalf of the unit, and the unit may respond to similar requests from officials of other states.
(d) Investigators of the unit shall have all the powers vested in law enforcement officers of the State of Alabama, including, but not limited to, the powers of arrest and the power to serve process, but only as necessary to enforce this chapter, and shall perform the duties, responsibilities, and functions as may be required for the unit to carry out its duties and responsibilities pursuant to this chapter. No person shall serve as investigator of the unit who has not met the minimum standards established for law enforcement officers by the Alabama Peace Officers' Standards and Training Commission, or other standards as may be provided hereafter by law.
(e) Information relating to criminal activity discovered in the course of an investigation by the unit shall be provided to the Department of Public Safety.