Bail Reform

Democrats Consider Altering NY’s New Bail Reform Law Amid Mounting Pressure

After a string of attacks targeted at Jewish people in the region, there is more demand to make changes to the new law that's less than a week old

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What to Know

  • As pressure from prosecutors and law enforcement mounts, NY Democrats are considering making changes to the new bail reform law
  • The new law does away with money bail and pretrial detention for many low-level cases and nonviolent felonies
  • Further scrutiny of the bail reforms came after a string of violence that targeted Jewish people in the region

Democrats, amid mounting pressure from prosecutors and law enforcement, are opening the door to changes on New York's bail reform law as the legislative session begins this week.

New York's bail law, which went into effect at the beginning of the year, did away with money bail and pretrial detention for a wide majority of low-level cases and nonviolent felonies.

Law enforcement officials and Republicans have spent months raising red flags on the changes, but their criticism caught more fervor in the last week as courts across the state have released people who would have remain behind bars under the old rules.

Some say bail reform is going to make the criminal justice system fairer for everyone, but district attorneys and police say the new law could put witnesses and victims in danger. Jonathan Dienst reports.

Bail changes, passed by a Democratic-controlled legislature last session, played a key role in Gov. Andrew Cuomo's criminal justice agenda.

While heading into session, some state Democrats are suggesting changes to the law or saying the reforms should be revisited.

Rich Azzopardi, senior adviser to Cuomo, issued a statement saying the administration supports adding hate crimes to a list of offenses for which a judge can set bail.

"The system's reforms are no doubt a work in progress which we will be discussing this session," he said in a statement.

Cuomo's office defended the reforms as recently as late November.

Advocated for the new bail reform law say it is going to make it fairer for defendants not yet convicted by letting them out on bail and informing them of the evidence and witnesses against them. But district attorneys and police say the new law could put victims and witnesses at risk. The I-Team’s Jonathan Dienst reports.

Reform critics argue the changes have jeopardized public safety. Further scrutiny of the bail reforms came after a string of violence that targeted Jews in the region.

Standing near Cuomo during a press conference, Rockland County Sheriff Louis Falco called on lawmakers to review the bail law after a man stormed into a rabbi's home and stabbed five people as they celebrated Hanukkah.

The suspect's bail was set at $5 million.

John Flanagan, the Republican minority state Senate leader, denounced the criminal justice reforms and said Democrats failed to listen to prosecutors from both parties, along with law enforcement authorities.

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins recently argued for the thrust of the bail reform, but said lawmakers should take a look at the law.

"We are as concerned about these hate crimes as everyone," she said.

Reforms supporters argued Monday that the changes create a fairer criminal justice system for poor defendants.

State Sen. Michael Gianaris pointed to Harvey Weinstein as an example of how the system treats rich and poor defendants. The Hollywood mogul has been free in the lead-up to his sexual assault trial in New York on charges of rape and assault.

"He has been accused of horrible, horrible things," Gianaris said. "And yet all the people who are clamoring and complaining about the bail reform, I have not heard a peep from them about how an accused rapist has been sitting in the community."

"But suddenly when we're trying to afford the same opportunities to the poor, it becomes a bigger problem," he said.

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