The NYS Legislature has passed and Governor Cuomo signed a massive criminal justice reform law that will do great harm, and might even kill. Starting January 1st, there will be no money bail for so called “non-violent” felonies and misdemeanors. Advocates of this law say what advocates of such laws always say, that bail hurts the poor and minorities. The pretext is that the current laws are discriminatory. The subtext is that the country is racist, and that YOU who want to be safe in your home are a bigot, too.
Discovery requires the prosecution to make its case available to the defense. The new law directs that prosecution evidence be given to the defense within 15 days. Every upstate District Attorney’s office will be burdened by another unfunded state mandate. They will have to hire new staff, but Albany is not providing money to cover the new hires. The Executive Director of the NYS Association of Counties, Stephen Acquario, says, “We’re still assessing the impact of this, but it’s safe to say it will cost millions of dollars across the state to implement this at the local level.”
Local judges will be mandated to release defendants unless they pose a “flight risk.” But what about the risk of re-offense, or of a more serious crime? Bail and detention will be eliminated for all class A drug offenses unless the defendant is a “major trafficker.” Mid- and low-level dealers walk. Judges will be forbidden from taking a defendant’s history into account when considering bail – our safety be damned. Erie County DA Fitzpatrick warns of people being “assaulted or killed by someone out on bail who any under normal, sane set of regulations would’ve been held pending trial.”
The law makes it easier for defendants to visit locations where they allegedly committed crimes. Under the section called “Order to grant access to premises,” a bank robber can visit the bank he robbed, a burglar can inspect a home he illegally entered, and most egregious, a rapist could have access to the bedroom where he committed rape.
A partial list of “non-violent” offenses no longer requiring bail according to the District Attorneys Association of New York State follows:
Assault 3rd degree; Aggravated vehicular assault; Criminally negligent homicide; Manslaughter 2nd; Criminal possession of a weapon on school grounds; Criminal possession of a weapon; Making a terroristic threat; resisting arrest; Directing a laser at an aircraft 1st; Criminal sale of a firearm to a minor. The link to the complete list is below.
This law reads like an ironic internet spoof, but it’s not. This egregious law comes from an insulated elite that is out of touch with the people they represent. We’re all at risk and this abomination must be repealed, now.
Michael A. Morrongiello, Ph. D.