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House is expected to consider Aniah’s Law

The proposed amendment would still need to be approved by Alabama voters.

Aniah Blanchard

The Alabama House of Representatives will consider a lengthy slate of bills when it convenes for day seven of the 2021 Legislative Session on Tuesday. Eighteen different bills are on Tuesday’s proposed special order calendar. Probably the most interesting item on the lengthy list is House Bill 131, a constitutional amendment that expands the offenses for which a judge can deny bail to a defendant.

House Bill 131 and House Bill 130, the enabling legislation for HB131, are both are sponsored by state Rep. Chip Brown, R-Hollinger’s Island. Brown’s constitutional amendment would allow prosecutors and judges broader discretion in requesting and denying bail to those accused of committing violent crimes. Currently, only persons charged with murder can be denied bail.

“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 said. “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 allows bail to be denied to those whose release would put the public at risk. The House passed this in both 2019 and 2020 but got hung up in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn, has replaced then-Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Brown has named the bill Aniah’s Law after 19-year-old college student Aniah Blanchard, who was murdered by Ibraheed Yazeed. Yazeed was out on bond for several violent offenses including kidnapping and attempted murder at the time. He was given bail despite more than a dozen priors, which included drug and robbery arrests.

Brown noted that Tuscaloosa police officer Dornell Cousette was also killed by a suspect who was on bail for robbery and assault charges. If HB131 is passed by three-fifths of both chambers of the Alabama Legislature, it would still need to be approved by Alabama voters.

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The House of Representatives is expected to come in at 1 p.m. and the Senate at 2 p.m. on Tuesday. The Senate has not released a proposed special order calendar.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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