Fulton County sheriff voices concerns about bail reform

Kumi Tucker
Created: October 01, 2019 05:50 PM

JOHNSTOWN --  Richard Giardino has worn many hats;  he was a district attorney and a judge, before becoming Fulton County sheriff. 

He is among those from both parties who are warning about what could happen once bail reform in New York takes effect in three months. 


Starting in January, people arrested for non-violent felonies, including manslaughter, will no longer be held on bail.  The same goes for those charged with a misdemeanor.  Class E felonies and misdemeanors will result in appearance tickets.

Sheriff Giardino is in favor of bail reform-- but says that it has to be done responsibly. 

He is considering holding a public meeting to inform people how the new changes could affect them.   

He says come January, here's what could happen if you come home and surprise a burglar: 

"We catch him in your house with a pillow case with your jewelry and credit cards.  We have to give him an appearance ticket under the new statute, unless there are some issues they're already bench warranted out on or something else," said the sheriff.  "Otherwise, we've got to give them an appearance ticket. So you're down at the police department, filling out your paperwork, signing your depositions, and they're released with an appearance ticket before you get back home."

He gives another example:  he wants people to know what could happen under bail reform if their loved one is hit and killed by a drunken driver. 

"So you go to the hospital, you're waiting in the emergency room for the coroner. You're waiting for your family with your deceased's loved ones, in the ER, and before you get back home, the person who killed them is out on an appearance ticket-- still intoxicated, because we don't have to wait until they sober up," he said. 

A fatal crash in Warren County last week is a prime example of what those bail reform changes could mean. 

Investigators say Skyler Crouse was speeding on the Northway when he crashed into a truck and killed the driver. 

If this had happened in January, he would have been given an appearance ticket on the manslaughter charge. 

The sheriff is also concerned about the future of successful drug courts around the state. 

"The definition of coerced treatment is you've got them incarcerated on an arrest, and you give them an opportunity and say look, you can go through the criminal justice system, or you can go into treatment," said the sheriff.  "Once we issue an appearance ticket, there's no incentive for somebody who's out to go into treatment."

In the new year, courts will be responsible to send court date reminders to defendants, adding more work for them.  The sheriff thinks the new measure will result in a spike in bench warrants, as people don't show up, which will tie up officers to track them down. 

The sheriff is calling for the new bail laws to be put on hold, until some parts can be modified. 


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