NYS makes changes to pre-trial laws

Emily Burkhard
Created: April 02, 2020 11:20 PM

ALBANY - Some surprising changes to New York state’s pretrial laws announced Thursday. 

Over a dozen charges, including sex trafficking offenses, money laundering in support of terrorism, child pornography offenses, repeat offenses and crimes resulting in death are now eligible for bail.

 “We feel this is a decent compromise,” Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple Sr. said. “Is it perfect? Absolutely not, but it’s a compromise and it’s a really, really good start.”

Apple said the state is also making changes to discovery deadlines. It's still 15 to 20 days for those incarcerated but the window has been extended to 35 days for those released.

“That’s a big relief for us,” Apple said.

Apple said the laws are working because the Albany County Jail population is currently at just over 300 people. That's a little less than half of what it usually would be, and a third of what it was three years ago.

Advocates for pre-trail reforms said savings from lower jail populations will cover the cost of additional equipment and staff needed to be in compliance with the new bail and discovery laws.

Albany County District Attorney David Soares said the investments his office made to be in compliance with those laws have helped his staff transition to working from home.

 “So we were able to operate from a keyboard from this is about our eighth or ninth month. So given the COVID-19 issue we were able to adapt rather easily,” Soares said.

Though they both called it a good start, Apple believes more amendments will be necessary in the future.

 “I still would really like to see judges get back their [total] discretion,” Apple said. “I think that’s very important. Their elected officials within this great state, they should have the ability to make their own discretion.”

Soares agrees.

 “The fact that we still have a statue that does not allow for us to sit bail on people who are transporting major amounts of narcotics, dangerous narcotics that are killing people in our community is something that we’re going to have to revisit,” he said.

Soares and Apple believe the state should now focus on investing in pretrial services as well as crime prevention measures.

Stay tuned to NewsChannel 13 for updates on this story.

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