Alabama voters have passed Amendment 1 changing Section 16 of the constitution, which concerns the right to bail, a right also covered under the 8th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Section 16 says people charged with a crime, except for capital offenses, have a right to bail, and that bail cannot be excessive. Amendment 1 adds a list of serious crimes other than capital offenses for which a defendant could be held without bail before trial.
Shortly before 11 p.m. Tuesday, with 61% of the vote in, the amendment had 858,064 yes votes to 212,511 voting no — a margin of 80-20.
Amendment 1 came in response to a crime that attracted statewide attention. Aniah Blanchard, a 19-year-old college student from Homewood, was abducted from a convenience store in Auburn in October 2019. A month later, authorities found Blanchard’s body in rural Macon County.
The man charged in Blanchard’s kidnapping and murder, Ibraheem Yazeed, had been released from jail on a $280,000 bond after being charged with kidnapping, robbery and attempted murder from a January 2019 incident in Montgomery.
In response, Alabama lawmakers rallied in support of what they named Aniah’s Law, sponsored by Rep. Chip Brown, R-Mobile. It passed the House and Senate without a dissenting vote. Blanchard’s mother, father, stepmother, and stepfather made appearances at the State House to speak in favor of the bill.
Amendment 1 adds murder, kidnapping in the first degree, rape in the first degree, sodomy in the first degree, sexual torture, domestic violence in the first degree, human trafficking in the first degree, burglary in the first degree, arson in the first degree, robbery in the first degree, terrorism, and aggravated abuse of a child under age 6 as charges for which a defendant could be held without bail.
Lawmakers passed a separate bill that spells out how courts would apply the new restrictions on bail.
Prosecutors can request a pretrial hearing to ask the judge to hold a defendant without bail. The accused could be represented by a lawyer and could testify, call witnesses, and cross-examine witnesses. The judge will rule within 48 hours of the hearing on whether to deny bail.
Alabama was not the first state to pass such a law. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 22 states have approved an expanded list of offenses and circumstances for which a defendant can be held without bail.