MONTGOMERY — The Alabama House of Representatives on Thursday approved a bill as substituted that would allow prosecutors and judges broader discretion in requesting and denying bail to those accused of committing violent crimes.
HB 81, sponsored by State Rep. Chip Brown (R-Mobile), would be known as “Aniah’s Law” if enacted, named after the late Aniah Blanchard. Ibraheed Yazeed is currently being held on capital murder charges in her November death. Yazeed was out on bond for several violent offenses, including kidnapping and attempted murder, at the time of the alleged murder. He was awarded bail despite more than a dozen prior offenses, which included drug and robbery arrests.
The House passage of HB 81 came on Higher Education Day at the State House. Blanchard was a 19-year-old college student at the time of her death. Her family members were on hand to see HB 81 passed by the House, and the chamber gave them a standing ovation after the unanimous 104-0 vote.
The legislation is being sponsored by State Sen. David Sessions (R-Grand Bay) in the Senate as SB 119, which is currently in the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. Both companion bills are constitutional amendments and would go to a vote of the people via referendum if passed by the legislature.
“Too many of those who are accused of violent crimes are bonding out of jail and committing even more serious offenses, and it is time for law-abiding Alabamians to start fighting back,” Brown has stated. “Denying bail to those accused of violent offenses is a commonsense answer to a dangerous societal problem, and I am certain the citizens of Alabama will ratify a constitutional amendment if the Legislature will simply pass it.”
Section 16 of the 1901 Constitution of Alabama currently requires that “all persons shall, before conviction, be bailable by sufficient sureties, except for capital offenses, when the proof is evident or the presumption great; and that excessive bail shall not in any case be required.”
Brown’s legislation, which passed the House by a 92-3 margin last year but was held up in the Senate Judiciary Committee, would allow bail to be denied to those who place the public at risk with their release. State Sen. Cam Ward (R-Alabaster), the chairman of that committee, is sponsoring similar legislation this year in the form of SB 59 and SB 60.
Aniah’s Law would amend the state constitution to read, ”If no conditions of release can reasonably protect the community from risk of physical harm to the accused, the public, or both, ensure the presence of the accused at trial, or ensure the integrity of the judicial process, the accused may be detained without bail. Excessive bail shall not in any case be imposed or required.”
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn