SKOUFIS CALLS FOR “DANGEROUSNESS” AMENDMENT TO BAIL REFORMS

Senator also introduces bill to enhance electronic monitoring of defendants

In light of the bail reforms that went into effect on January 1, Senator James Skoufis (D-Hudson Valley) announced he is calling for an amendment that would allow judges to consider “dangerousness” during pre-trial detention. Additionally, the reforms authorized electronic monitoring for all felony cases, misdemeanor domestic violence cases, misdemeanor sex offenses, and any other misdemeanors where the defendant was convicted of a violent felony in the past five years. Skoufis introduced new legislation today that would strike the five-year cap and authorize electronic monitoring for any and all misdemeanors where the defendant has a violent criminal history.

“One of our Constitution’s bedrock principles is ‘innocent until proven guilty’ and the bail reforms advanced in the spring attempt to ensure individuals without money and not yet convicted of a crime aren’t thrown in jail simply because they can’t post bail – all the while those who can afford bail are set free until their trial,” Skoufis said. “However, we also have an obligation to protect the public from violent offenders as well as ensure a defendant appears in court to answer for their charges. As we have seen in the first week of the bail reforms, allowing judges to hold a defendant they deem dangerous is essential. Likewise, more robust electronic monitoring, such as ankle bracelets, will ensure defendants cannot flee and can answer for their charges in the court of law.”

Skoufis also argued it was malpractice for the state to advance these proposals without the necessary funding that police departments and counties require to ensure compliance. Senator Skoufis called for an immediate, full state commitment to purchase additional electronic monitoring devices and pledged to push for this and other necessary funding.

David Hoovler, Orange County District Attorney and President of the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York said, “I applaud Senator Skoufis for bringing forth these reasonable changes to the existing, flawed bail reform law and putting his constituent first. Giving our judges the discretion to consider dangerousness when setting bail, in my opinion, is a welcome addition to keeping the citizens of Orange County safe. Details still need to be worked out with all the stakeholders at the table, but this legislation is a reasonable first step to a public safety-oriented solution.”

Skoufis’ electronic monitoring legislation will be carried by Brian Barnwell (D-Queens) in the Assembly and already has eight Senate Majority co-sponsors. The first day of 2020’s legislative session is scheduled for January 8.