Alabama Supreme Court raises maximum bonds for murder defendants

Published 9:23 pm Sunday, January 23, 2022

The Alabama Supreme Court has raised the maximum bail amount a judge can set for a state murder charge to $1.5 million.

The change to Alabama’s criminal rules was approved by the high court on Jan. 14, news outlets reported. It means murder defendants now face bail that’s 10 times higher than the previous limit of $150,000.

Alabama prosecutors had pushed for the change, saying the old bail limit was too low to keep some dangerous criminal defendants in jail while awaiting trial.

In Mobile County, Dayvon Bray was released from jail on bond last year after being charged with murder, to be arrested again and charged with fatally shooting his girlfriend. Higher bails for those charged with murder could prevent similar cases in the future, said Mobile County Chief Assistant District Attorney Keith Blackwood.

“It’s a better opportunity to keep these offenders incarcerated while they await trial rather than have them make a very low bond and be out,” Blackwood told WKRG-TV. “It’ll be really large bonds for people accused of murder, one of the most horrific crimes that we have.”

Alabama’s bail schedule is a recommendation for judges, who have some discretion to set higher or lower amounts. But magistrates are bound by the upper limits of the rules, and they’re often the first to set bail for criminal defendants.

Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey said he’s spent seven years advocating a higher bail amount for murder charges.

“I’m very satisfied with the change,” Bailey told the Montgomery Advertiser. He added: “I think it’s ridiculous that you can be caught with drugs and get a $1.5 million bail, but if you murder someone the max is $150,000.”

Another measure aimed at keeping more criminal defendants locked away until their cases go to trial will be decided by Alabama voters in November. Voters on the fall ballot are being asked to approve Aniah’s Law, named for Aniah Blanchard, an Auburn teenager who was abducted and killed in 2019. That constitutional amendment, approved by state lawmakers, would give judges more discretion to deny bail to people accused of violent crimes.