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A spirit that is not afraid

Has Alabama seen the effects of Aniah's Law yet?

<p>Aniah Blanchard smiles for the camera next to her friend Hannah Crocker.</p>

Aniah Blanchard smiles for the camera next to her friend Hannah Crocker.

During the November midterm elections, the state of Alabama had ten proposed amendments on the ballot. However, one stood out in its content and potential impact on Alabamians. Amendment One, more commonly known as Aniah’s Law, passed with nearly 81% support.

In the end, over 1 million voters in Alabama supported the measure, which went into effect immediately; but many may be wondering whether the law has been put to good use yet or if its use has been limited.

Alabama House District 105 Rep. Chip Brown, who sponsored the bill, said the law has been put to use since being enacted. Yet he noted that the law has not been abused. It has been used justly and only when authorities had inclement reason to request that bond be denied to certain alleged criminals.

“It has been used several times now across the state,” Brown said. “I’m excited to see that.” 

He cited some specific cases that recently took place in Prattville, Alabama. In this case, a man named Michael Butler kidnapped two teens from Autauga County in Prattville. Butler was held without bail and was charged with several counts of kidnapping, rape and robbery, but also had charges in St. Clair County, Alabama, and attempted murder charges in Georgia.

“I’m glad to see it’s being used, and I’m glad to see it being used the way it’s being used,” Brown said. “The intent
was to use it in cases where the prosecutors and law enforcement feel there is a propensity for violence that the individual would let out. That’s the way it appears to have been used.”

Brown said that there was already a “high threshold” that one would have to cross in order for them to be denied bond. Brown described the threshold as being a “threat to the community, themselves or a flight risk.” 

Once that threshold is crossed, a separate hearing must be held where evidence is presented as to why the alleged perpetrator of the crime or crimes is imminently dangerous and should be denied bond. 

Brown said that he believed that the law would continue to be used in good faith, largely due to how the law was written. He said it was not a “blanket approach” in which anyone who allegedly committed a crime could be denied bond. The crimes laid out in Aniah’s Law were specific to ensure that only potentially violent alleged offenders could be denied bond.

“It’s set up in a way that lends itself to prosecutors who only use it when they feel it’s justified,” Brown said. “By taking the approach of having to prove one of those three criteria regarding an imminent threat or a flight risk, I think it sets the standard that prosecutors will only use it when it needs to be used, not indiscriminately.”

While Brown believed that this law helped ensure the safety of Alabamians, he said he also had other bills in the works that would hopefully deliver similar effects. 

One of Brown’s proposed bills is a two-part sexual assault bill, a bill in which the first part was passed two years ago. The first part was the Sexual Assault Victims Bill of Rights. In this, Brown said it set standards for how long evidence was to be checked on in sexual assault kits and that survivors would never have to pay for a sexual assault exam.

The second part of the bill package was being brought to the floor this year. Brown said it was a reporting bill that stated that law enforcement officials and campus safety officials were to report the number of sexual assault cases they had occur in their jurisdictions, as well as where they were in the process of investigating those cases.

“By doing this, we could shed some light on the true number of sexual assaults and hopefully speed up the process of testing through sexual assault kits and we can hold law enforcement accountable on some of these cold cases,” Brown said.

Brown said that his job—and the job of all elected officials—was to keep their constituents safe. He said that through laws like Aniah’s Law and others that he planned on bringing to a vote, he hoped to create a safe state for Alabamians.

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Tucker Massey | Content Editor

Tucker Massey, junior in journalism, is the content editor for The Auburn Plainsman.

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