The Alabama Senate on Tuesday passed Aniah’s Law, a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow judges to deny bonds for people suspected of committing violent felonies like murder, rape or kidnapping. House Bill 131 is sponsored by state Rep. Chip Brown, R-Hollister Island.
The legislation is named for Aniah Blanchard, a 19-year-old Alabama college student who was kidnapped and murdered in October 2019. The suspect, Ibraheed Yazeed, was out on bond at the time for charges of kidnapping and attempted murder when he kidnapped Aniah at a gas station in the Auburn area.
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.”
The bill will allow prosecutors to ask a judge for a hearing to request that they deny bail. The judge can, at his discretion, either give or deny that hearing. If the hearing is granted then the district attorney can present evidence that the defendant is a danger to the community, presents a danger to himself or is a flight risk.
Under current law, a defendant can be denied bail if they are accused of capital murder or because he violated the provisions of his bond. This bill gives district attorneys the ability to say that the defendant is going to be a violent threat to the community. This would be applicable in cases where the defendant is charged with a class A felony.
The House of Representatives has already passed this legislation. The Senate added an amendment brought by Sen. Vivian Figures, D-Mobile, narrowing the felonies for which this would apply.
The legislation is being carried on the floor of the Alabama Senate by Sen. David Sessions, R-Mobile.
Elijah Blanchard, the father of Aniah, told the Senate Judiciary Committee: “I feel that as a parent this would prevent other parents from going through what we have gone through.”
“This bill would be very instrumental in keeping these criminals locked up,” Blanchard said. “It would give the judges the discretion to deny bail to dangerous criminals. This young many was out there just preying on young women.”
“If this man had been locked up, Aniah would be alive today,” Blanchard added at the public hearing. “If you rape someone the judge should have the discretion to say that you won’t have bond.”
The Senate passed HB131 on a 30 to 0 vote. Because the bill was amended by the Senate, it goes back to the House to consider the changes made by the Senate. Since Aniah’s Law is a constitutional amendment it would still have to be ratified by Alabama voters.
Thursday will be day 21 of the 2021 Legislative Session.