On Nov. 8, several proposed amendments to the state's constitution will be on the ballot. Amendment I, more commonly known as Aniah’s Law, would allow judges to deny bond to those who are charged with committing violent crimes.
The amendment is named for Aniah Blanchard, who went missing in 2019 and was later found murdered. The man charged with her death was out on bond at the time, despite being charged with multiple violent crimes including kidnapping.
Aniah’s Law was sponsored by Rep. Chip Brown, R-Mobile. According to Brown, the legislation was written and passed in the Alabama House of Representatives in 2019 but did not make it to the Senate in time.
In 2020, the amendment was officially named for Blanchard and was once again passed in the House and not taken up by the Senate in time.
Finally, in 2021, Aniah’s Law was passed unanimously in both the House and Senate. The legislation was then signed by Gov. Kay Ivey.
“We brought this up after listening to prosecutors and judges and law enforcement that were frustrated because of situations like what happened to Aniah Blanchard,” Brown said. “A violent criminal that they know is going to commit violent crimes could be let out unless they were charged with capital murder.”
Under current Alabama law, specifically Section 16 of the state’s Constitution, bond is to be granted to anyone prior to their conviction. The only exception to this is if a person has been charged with a capital offense, in which case bond can be denied.
Offenses listed in the new amendment that would allow judges to deny bond include capital murder, murder, first-degree rape, sodomy, arson, kidnapping, robbery, human trafficking, domestic violence and burglary, sexual torture, terrorism and aggravated child abuse.
While bond could be denied to those charged with violent crimes, Brown said that any evidence presented to deny bond would be inadmissible in the actual court proceedings, which is what made this amendment constitutionally sound.
“Prosecutors, judges, law enforcement and victim’s families all tell me, and I believe, this will save lives because it will keep dangerous predators off the streets,” Brown said.
Brown said that while versions of this amendment have been in the works for several years, he was honored to meet Blanchard’s family and name the law after Aniah.
Brown noted several similar cases to that of Blanchard’s. One instance he mentioned was from his home city of Mobile in which a man murdered his girlfriend but was let out because of current bond laws and continued to commit violent crimes.
“Not a week goes by since we passed this legislation that I don’t hear from law enforcement, judges, victim’s families or just someone in the community about situations somewhere in the state, someone out on bond has committed a terrible act against someone,” Brown said.
Brown said Aniah’s Law has the ability to end so many stories like this and steer the justice system in a positive direction.
On Nov. 8, Brown encourages anyone who can to vote “yes” on this amendment. He said this would allow judges to keep dangerous criminals off the street and keep the general populace out of harm’s way.
“From a safety standpoint, we’re headed in the right direction,” Brown said.
Brown is hopeful for the law’s prospects on election day and believes that with its bipartisan success in the Alabama legislature, it will perform just as well on the ballot.
“Please vote ‘yes’ on Amendment I,” Brown said. “This has long, lasting impacts that will have a positive impact on the people of this state. So, vote ‘yes’ on Amendment I.”
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Tucker Massey, sophomore in journalism, is a news editor for The Auburn Plainsman.