A local state legislator plans to introduce an amendment to Alabama’s constitution that would make it easier for judges to hold more defendants without bond.
Currently, the law only allows judges to deny a defendant’s right to a bond if he or she is charged with a capital offense. After hearing concerns from local law enforcement leaders, State Rep. Chip Brown, R-Grand Bay, says he wants to change that in Montgomery this year.
Under Brown’s proposal, defendants would be able to be held without bond until their case is resolved if they’re charged with an offense punishable by life in prison or are considered a flight risk. It would also apply in cases where the evidence points to a “strong presumption of guilt.”
Brown said the bill is modeled after a similar law passed in the state of Florida, and told reporters he’s confident it’s on solid legal footing. Brown said he plans to introduce the bill Tuesday when the House of Representatives returns for the regular legislative session.
During a press conference announcing the legislation Monday, Brown was flanked by Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich, Sheriff Sam Cochran and representatives of the Mobile Police Department — all of whom say expressed support for Brown’s proposed bill.
Because it calls for a change to Alabama’s constitution, the bill would be placed on the 2020 ballot for statewide referendum vote were it to pass out of the legislature.
Mobile Public Safety Director James Barber called the proposed legislation a “great asset” that could help law enforcement protect communities in the future. He also said it would help address the “revolving door” of criminals being repeated released from local jails.
“The constitution gives everyone the right to bail, except those charged with capital crimes,” Barber said. “If the evidence is great and there’s a likelihood the defendant will re-offend, this bill would allow them to be held without bail as well.”
According to Barber, judges would still be able to make the determination of whether to grant bond following a hearing. The bill, he said, would only afford them them opportunity to hold certain defendants without setting a bail amount in more cases than the law currently allows.
Rich, who has been a vocal critic of bonds for repeat offenders, said her office supports the proposal “100 percent.” Rich said her office recently prosecuted a case involved a defendant who was arrested while out on probation for a prior offense.
If it hadn’t been for the probation revocation, Rich said he would’ve been eligible bail and could have theoretically been released for two years between the time of his arrest and conviction.
Cochran and MPD Chief Lawrence Battiste have also expressed their support for the change.
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