What criminal justice reforms could mean to you

wwny What criminal justice reforms could mean to you

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Imagine this: your home is burglarized; police make an arrest, and then you learn the suspect and their lawyer have the right to return to the scene of the crime - your home. If you don't allow that, you can be arrested.

Starting January 1, defendants will be able to ask for permission to go back to the scene of the crime and St. Lawrence County Sheriff Kevin Wells says that victimizes people for a second time.

“This has gone too far in this case,” said Wells.

As of the new year, defendants will be able to ask a judge for permission to return the scene of the crime, even if that's your home.

"It could be something as drastic as somebody that's the victim of sexual assault and somewhere in there they feel they want to be able to prove in their case that I should go back and be able to visit the crime scene so I can walk through it. You're victimizing someone by letting them walk back through your home," said Wells.

If a judge does approve a request from a defendant to go back into your home and you don't comply, you could be arrested.

Some believe this will level the playing field, allowing the defendant and their lawyer to build their own case.

Defense attorney Eric Swartz sees how it could be helpful.

"If distance and a lot of those mathematical things came into question, it could be helpful. It's probably upsetting to the person who lives there. That's going to be a big rub and of course the defendant has to make the application. It doesn't happen automatically, but yes, that could be helpful to the defense," said Swartz.

But Wells says there's no need for somebody to go back and visit the crime scene. He says police do their job well, documenting it.

Officials admit this may not happen often, but the Wells says it remains a concern.

"I'm hoping it's not going to become a problem, but I also know that sometimes the courts will do things that make us go, huh. So with that it is still a concern because if it is something that is allowed, there's also the chance that some bad thought is going to go into it," he said.

This is just one of the criminal justice reforms set to take effect on January 1 and Wells says he's worried.

He says the new laws were done in a hurry, rushed through with the state budget without input from law enforcement, district attorneys and others. But on the other side, defense attorneys like Swartz believe some of the changes are positive.

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