New York’s bail reforms that will eliminate bail and pretrial detention for a variety of misdemeanor and felony charges have met with considerable backlash from various fronts. Effective from January 1, 2020, the retroactive law that has been brought forth by Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor De Blasio’s administration, aims to reduce the number of people held in jails and the amount of time they are held. Inmates who are in jail and eligible under the new law will have to apply to be freed.
The law also aims to address concerns over an unfair advantage that law enforcement had in prosecutions. Grand jury proceedings will not be a secret under this law and prosecution will have 15 days to turn over evidence after arraignment to the defense, which can be made to 30 days in exceptional cases. The defense gets 30 days to submit the case to the state.
They also have to show evidence three days before a plea deal expires. The defense will have access to contact information of anyone relevant in the case, including police officers. The defense can also visit the scene of the crime to help build their case, which many critics have said could victimize those wronged further.
The Mayor’s Office is also putting in place the Atlas program, to help defendants stay out of trouble while they await trial. The program includes free housing assistance, mentoring services, job training and more.
According to the New York Post, nearly 900 people are expected to be released from Rikers jail complex under the new law. Earlier this week, a suspected drug dealer, who almost hit a pedestrian in Manhattan in an attempt to escape DEA task force agents, will be released from jail after the law goes into effect. He is charged with reckless endangerment, leaving the scene of an incident, unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, marijuana possession and attempted grand larceny.
Critics fear that it would add to crime rates and jeopardize the safety of New Yorkers.
“The upcoming bail reform sends a message to criminals that they can do whatever they would like with no repercussions after committing a crime. They will be sent back onto the streets to commit more crimes, which will endanger the public’s safety and cause crime to skyrocket,” Joseph Imperatrice, founder of Blue Lives Matter, a non-profit organization “created to help Law Enforcement Officers and their families during their time of need” told MEA WorldWide, “Politicians need to pull their heads out of the sand and start doing what they were elected to do, keep the people safe and make decisions in their best interest.”
Probation officers have also come forward telling lawmakers that they do not have the staff or infrastructure to implement these reforms. Mayors across the state have also shown concern over the implementation of these reforms, saying they lack the resources.
Among the offenses that bail will be eliminated for also include charges of animal cruelty and animal fighting, which is also a cause of concern for animal rights activists. All animal cruelty laws fall under this new system.
They are “detrimental” to animal cruelty prosecution said Brian Shapiro, New York state director for the Humane Society of the United States. “Suspects charged with these crimes, including animal fighting, will simply be given desk appearance tickets,” he said, adding that a case can be potentially thrown out if the shelter cannot meet documentation requirements because of a shortage of time.
“Shelters, many of which are non-profit agencies, will need to quickly document the treatment of abused animals in these cases and present information to the district attorney within the new timeline. If the documentation falls short because of time constraints, the case may be thrown out and the animal returned to a suspected abuser. I don’t believe this was the intent of these reforms, but it’s what we have to work with now,” he said.
According to the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York, those accused of following charges won’t get held on bail:
• Assault in the third degree
• Aggravated vehicular assault
• Aggravated assault upon a person less than eleven years old
• Criminally negligent homicide
• Aggravated vehicular homicide
• Manslaughter in the second degree
• Unlawful imprisonment in the first degree
• Coercion in the first degree
• Arson in the third and fourth degree
• Grand larceny in the first degree
• Criminal possession of a weapon on school grounds or criminal possession of a firearm
• Criminal possession of a controlled substance in the first and second degree
• Criminal sale of a controlled substance in the first and second degree
• Criminal sale of a controlled substance in or near school grounds
• Specified felony drug offenses involving the use of children, including the use of a child to commit a controlled substance offense and criminal sale of a controlled substance to a child
• Criminal solicitation in the first degree and criminal facilitation in the first degree
• Money laundering in support of terrorism in the third and fourth degree
• Making a terroristic threat
• Patronizing a person for prostitution in a school zone
• Promoting an obscene sexual performance by a child
• Possessing an obscene sexual performance by a child
• Promoting a sexual performance by a child
• Failure to register as a sex offender
• Obstructing governmental administration in the first and second degree
• Obstructing governmental administration by means of a self-defense spray device
• Bribery in the first degree
• Bribe giving for public office
• Bribe receiving in the first degree
• Promoting prison contraband in the first and second degree
• Resisting arrest
• Hindering prosecution
• Tampering with a juror and tampering with physical evidence
• Aggravated harassment in the first degree
• Directing a laser at an aircraft in the first degree
• Criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree
• Criminal sale of a firearm to a minor
• Enterprise corruption and money laundering in the first degree
• Aggravated cruelty to animals, overdriving, torturing and injuring animals
• Failure to provide proper sustenance
• Animal fighting