Alabama House passes constitutional amendment to allow people accused of Class A felonies to be held without bail

The Alabama House of Representatives unanimously passed House Bill 81 on Thursday. If passed by the Senate, the measure would appear on the 2020 ballot for voter approval or rejection.

The amendment, referred to as Aniah’s Law, would allow people accused of Class A felonies to be held without bail “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.” Class A felonies in Chapter 6 of Title 13A include murder, kidnapping, rape, human trafficking, elder abuse, and domestic violence.

The constitution currently states 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.”

In Alabama, a 60% supermajority vote is required in each chamber of the Alabama State Legislature to refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot for voter consideration.

The amendment was introduced as House Bill 81 on February 4, 2020, by Rep. Chip Brown (R-105). On February 27, the Alabama House of Representatives approved HB 81 in a vote of 104-0.

Representative Brown said, “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. Denying bail to those accused of violent offenses is a commonsense answer to a dangerous societal problem.”

The amendment is named after Aniah Blanchard, who was allegedly murdered by Ibraheem Yazeed. Yazeed, at the time, was out on bond after being arrested for kidnapping and attempted murder.

A total of 95 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Alabama from 1998 to 2018. An average of eight measures appeared on the ballot in Alabama during even-numbered election years. 81% (72 of 89) of the total number of measures that appeared on the ballot during even-numbered years were approved, and 19% (17 of 89) were defeated.

The legislature referred five constitutional amendments to the 2020 ballot during the 2019 legislative session. Four of the measures will appear on the general election ballot. Amendment 1, which concerns the state board of education, will appear on the March 3 primary election ballot.

Click here to learn about Alabama’s 2020 ballot measures

Additional reading:
Alabama Conditions for Detention Without Bail Amendment (2020)