Law enforcement officials statewide urge delay on bail reform, discovery laws

Posted 20 November 2019 at 1:31 pm

Press Release, District Attorneys Association of the State of NY, NYS Association of Chiefs of Police, and NYS Sheriffs’ Association

ALBANY – In numerous locations across the state, hundreds of District Attorneys, Sheriffs, Police Chiefs, Police Union members and other law enforcement officials called on the Legislature and the Governor to address serious concerns to New York’s new bail and discovery laws.

The bills were embedded in the greater budget bill and passed with little to no input from the law enforcement community. The bail bill will eliminate cashless 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. The discovery bill overhauls the discovery process and requires an expedited timeline to provide materials such as police reports, radio transmissions, body-worn and dash-cam video, laboratory test results and volumes of other materials and data related to prosecution.

The bill considerably expands the number of cases where these documents must be exchanged yet provides no additional funding or resources for prosecutors or law enforcement to comply. The discovery bill also 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.

“Bail and discovery reform will change the criminal justice system in New York State, but not for the good of the law-abiding citizens of the state and Niagara County,” said James R. Voutour, sheriff of Niagara County and chairman of the Executive Committee of the New York State Sheriff’s Association. “The handcuffs are being removed from the criminals and placed on the hands of the hard-working deputy sheriffs, police officers, prosecutors, and other members of law enforcement working to protect our citizens. The Legislature and the Governor need to delay the implementation of these changes to ensure that all New Yorkers receive the protection they deserve.”

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.

Year after year, New York continues to be a leader in public safety. New York is the fifth safest state in the country and has the lowest crime rate of any large state.

New York also has the lowest imprisonment rate of any large state. Since 2007, crime has declined by 18% in New York State.

The state has a property crime rate 40% lower than the national average. The every day work of prosecutors, sheriffs and police officers is an integral part of maintaining and improving the quality of life for all New Yorkers. All of these offices must be adequately funded and properly staffed.

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