Opponents express concerns about ‘Aniah’s Law’

Published: Nov. 7, 2022 at 7:42 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - There is an amendment on Tuesday’s ballot that could change the state’s bail process if passed. Amendment 1 would allow a judge to deny bail to someone charged with a violent felony.

The amendment, known as “Aniah’s Law,” named after Aniah Blanchard. Police say a man charged with a violent felony was out on bail when he kidnapped and killed her in Auburn in 2019.

Opponents say what happened to Aniah is heartbreaking, but they are concerned about the language of this amendment.

One lawmaker says Alabamians are being fed misinformation about the judicial process.

“With or without ‘Aniah’s Law,’ judges and district attorneys have a lot of discretion when it comes to bond revocations and bond amounts,” said state Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa.

Judges will have even more discretion if Amendment 1 passes. It adds to the list of reasons to deny bails, including domestic violence, arson and robbery. Mayors for the state’s 10 biggest cities and district attorneys from across the state are very much in support of what they call a public safety effort.

“This will be something that will give prosecutors another tool to protect the community,” said Trisha Mellberg Carter with the Montgomery County district attorney’s office.

But England says that tool can stay in the box. In a series of tweets, he laid out his argument, calling it a “people” issue rather than a “law” issue.

“There are people all across the state of Alabama who are sitting in jails on bond revocations and no bonds who are not charged with capital offenses,” said England.

While England says he’ll vote “no,” there’s also concern from the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“The purpose of bail is to ensure public safety and public security, but primarily to just ensure that an individual shows back up to court,” said Jerome Dees.

Dees believes Alabamians should think about the ripple effect if someone is denied bail and later found innocent.

“The whole time that they’re sitting in jail, they’re no longer working. If they have children and, God forbid, they’re the sole custodian, what happens to the child in that instance?” said Dees.

He also pointed out possible constitutional violations, specifically, the United States constitutional right to bail.

“Anytime that we are beginning to strip away some of those protections, naturally there are going to be concerns,” said Dees.

Opponents want to emphasize they agree this is a tragic situation, but they believe passing this amendment is not the answer.

You can find more details about all 10 amendments and that constitutional ballot proposal here.

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