Bail Reform

Gov. Cuomo Says He Won't Approve State Budget Without Changes to Bail Reform Law

Cuomo said he supports removing cash bail in total and allowing judges to have discretion over whether to keep people in custody before a trial

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New York's governor said Friday he will not approve the state budget without changes to a law that overhauled the state's bail system.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, third-term Democrat who often uses the state budget to push through his policy priorities, made the comments while speaking on public radio. His remarks could raise the stakes on budget negotiations in the upcoming weeks.

The law eliminated cash bail for most misdemeanors and nonviolent cases in an effort to prevent poor arrestees from languishing in jail pretrial for low-level crimes. But the law did not eliminate cash bail entirely.

Cuomo said he supports removing cash bail in total and allowing judges to have discretion over whether to keep people in custody before a trial.

Judicial discretion should have certain parameters, he said, and the system should allow for due process and the right to appeal.

"That would be, I think, the best system in the country," he said.

Opponents of the new law say that recent examples show the "catch and release" strategy isn't working, citing the case of a serial bank robber who was released and promptly robbed another bank. NBC New York’s Marc Santia reports.

Cuomo's perspective largely aligns with a proposal flouted by state Senate Democrats that would do away with cash bail entirely but give judges more say over who is released from jail before trial.

Under the proposal, a judge could hold someone in pretrial detention for certain hate crimes and domestic violence felonies, along with crimes that led to a death. It would also allow for repeat offenders to be held in custody before a trial.

Specifics of the proposal remain murky and officials have not released legislative language.

Orange County District Attorney David Hoovler, who also serves as president of the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York, said earlier this month that it's not even useful to comment on the proposal because the specifics were not available.

Senate Democrats released the proposal after weeks of facing deep disapproval from law enforcement and prosecutors, who argued the reforms jeopardized public safety.

Critics of the law have called attention to cases of people committing new offenses after being released under the bail law.

Critics say a man who was arrested for robbing a bank and then robbed again after being freed due to the new bail reform is the symbol for how the new law isn't working. The I-Team's Pei-Sze Cheng reports.

State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Democrat, has pushed back against calls to change the bail law, which went into effect at the beginning of the year.

Heastie said he's in the "listening stage" and has invited law enforcement and prosecutors to provide information on "what's working."

"When I get the relevant statistics and we're able (to) analyze it and discuss it as a conference, then I'll have a response," he said this week. "But until then, I don't have anything else to add on this bail discussion."

Advocates backing the law roundly lambaste the proposal from Senate Democrats and express concerns that giving judges more discretion over the bail system will lead to racial disparities.

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