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Fight against NY bail reform continues

Emily Burkhard
Updated: November 25, 2019 06:59 PM
Created: November 25, 2019 06:51 PM

ALBANY - Lawmakers are continuing to fight bail reforms that are supposed to take effect in January.

On Monday bipartisan legislation was introduced that could restore some of the power judges lost when the new bail and discovery laws were passed earlier this year.

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The new laws mandate releasing people who have been charged with misdemeanors and non-violent felonies. The goal is to keep people who can’t afford bail from sitting in jail and losing their job or living arrangements.

But many law enforcement officials have said they take issue with charges like robbery, stalking and assault being included in mandatory release. They also believe a judge should be able to use their discretion in deciding if someone should be held on bail.

Legislation introduced by Senator Jim Tedisco and Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara would allow judges to do that. 

Their decisions would be based on a prior felony conviction, a failure to make a court appearance, or a subsequent arrest while awaiting a preliminary hearing or trial.

Tedisco and Assemblymember Mary Beth Walsh have also introduced legislation to put a one year moratorium on implementing the reforms.

Even opponents admit bail reform is absolutely needed, but they aren’t sure about the version set to take effect on Jan. 1.  NewsChannel 13 spoke with Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple about the concerns he and many other New York sheriffs have.

“The scales just got tipped where it’s leaning more toward the defendant,” Apple said.

Apple said his deputies have already begun practicing downloading audio, body and dashboard camera footage from every call they go on. Under new discovery laws officers will soon have to send all of that content to the district attorney's office within about a week.

Apple said the more time it takes to put that evidence into their system, the less time they’re out patrolling. He said eventually that may mean having to prioritize police work.

“Now with the amount of data and everything else it’s almost unrealistic to think that that’s all going to be forwarded to the courts,” Apple said. “We’re going to have to focus on the crimes.”

Making any changes to the new laws would require either an executive order from the governor or a special legislative session.

Tedisco’s spokesperson said it’s entirely possible lawmakers will be back for a special session before the end of the year. They believe the decision will be made once legislators know the contents of a report on fusion voting, set to be released on Wednesday.  

Stay tuned to NewsChannel 13 for the latest developments.


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