Prosecutors, Sheriffs, Police Chiefs, Police Unions and Local Elected Officials joined together last Thursday to urge New York State Lawmakers to authorize a moratorium on the Criminal Justice Laws Set to Take Effect January 1, 2020 in order to carefully examine the full impacts of these laws. This was just one of numerous events held across New York State.
With many concerns about public safety and the safety of victims and witnesses, there must be a closer look at the unintended consequences of changes to discovery and bail laws. These new laws were embedded in the budget bill and passed with little to no input from the law enforcement community.
The bail bill will eliminate cash bail for a wide swath of crimes and fails to provide any mechanism for judges to consider a defendant’s danger to the community. Zero dollars were provided by the State for pretrial services to help ensure attendance at trial. This event was one of several held around New York State by prosecutors, law enforcement and local officials. New York is the fifth safest state in the country and Since 2007, crime has declined by 18 percent in New York State.
Rockland County Sheriff Louis Falco said, “This legislation requires that defendants charged with some 400 different crimes will require mandatory release. Regardless of the defendants past history, record of violence, ties to our community or likelihood to return to court or flee, Judges will have no discretion on whether or not to set bail. This will have a significant negative impact on public safety.”
The discovery bill requires the disclosure of victim and witness names and identifying information to the accused without adequate mechanisms to protect against witness intimidation and tampering. Additionally, the law creates a statutory right for the accused to visit a crime scene even if it is a private home.
“These so-called ‘Justice Reforms’ leave much to be desired, those who advocate for and protect the victims of crime were ignored or even worse, never consulted. Put simply, these changes favor defendants over victims and I find that unconscionable. This is just another example of Albany politicians having a ‘great idea’ and not discussing it with the communities, organizations and people it would affect,” said Rockland County Executive Ed Day.
Virtually every other state in the country that has eliminated cash bail has given Judges the resources to make proper decisions about who should be held and who should be released. Forty-seven states permit judges to consider public safety in their determination to set bail. After neighboring New Jersey implemented cashless bail, within months, they moved to a system where judges use risk assessment to weigh a defendant’s criminal history and the charges they face to determine their risk of danger to public safety.
Incoming Rockland County District Attorney Tom Walsh said in a statement, “We need to return discretion to the Magistrates so they can take into account the victim’s and public safety when determining cash bail on violent felonies. I have unequivocally stated throughout my campaign that first-time non-offenders should be released without bail. However, some of the crimes that require mandatory release without consideration for cash bail must be revised. I firmly believe if we take the appropriate time and input from all perspectives, we can come up with sensible criminal justice reforms in New York State that will protect the defendant and not jeopardize public safety.”
County Executive Ed Day, Sheriff Louis Falco, Ramapo Chief Brad Weidel, President, Police Chiefs Association of Rockland County, Clarkstown Supervisor George Hoehmann, Haverstraw Supervisor Howard Phillips, Orangetown Supervisor Chris Day, Ramapo Supervisor Michael Specht, Stony Point Supervisor Jim Monaghan and CEO of the Center for Safety and Change Elizabeth Santiago attended the event.