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The people of Alabama have spoken, and now, judges can hold suspects without bail if they are charged with one of several serious crimes.
Judges already had the option to hold capital murder suspects without bail, but the list has now been expanded to include charges of murder, sexual torture, terrorism and aggravated child abuse of a child under the age of six, as well as first-degree rape, kidnapping, sodomy, domestic violence, human trafficking, burglary, arson and robbery.
The additions came with the approval of Amendment 1 in the general election. The constitutional amendment, also known as "Aniah's Law," was named after slain Homewood native Aniah Blanchard, who was abducted and killed in 2019. The man suspected in the death was out on bond on charges of kidnapping, robbery and attempted murder.
With 72% of precincts reporting, the amendment passed with 80% of the vote.
A measure to put the amendment on the ballot was initially passed unanimously by Alabama lawmakers in 2021. State Rep. Chip Brown (R-Hollinger's Island) sponsored the bill.
"I'm very grateful that the people of Alabama saw the need and really the dire situation that we're in, and we needed to pass this amendment," said Brown. "Really, since I first sponsored this bill back in 2019 and since we passed it in 2021, I get emails and calls from victims and victim's families from across the state asking about Aniah's Law and wanting it to be implemented because it will save lives."
Brown said over the years, he has grown close to Blanchard's family. He added that he spoke to them Tuesday night after learning of the passing of the amendment.
"For me, it has been a long journey," he told 1819 News. "It is a piece of legislation that I became emotionally involved with … If there was one good thing that came out of that terrible tragedy, this is it."
Brown said he felt like he was put in the right place at the right time when it came to sponsoring the bill. While he said Blanchard's family has been in constant grief, he knows the passing of Aniah's Law is a part of their long journey of healing.
The new law works by giving a prosecutor the option to request a suspect charged with a Class A felony be held without bond. The judge could then deny bond after an evidentiary hearing if the judge finds the suspect poses an imminent threat or is a flight risk.
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