North Country officials react to Hochul’s plans to change bail reform

Published: Jan. 13, 2023 at 3:08 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - It’s been on the minds of many since the laws were passed a few years back: Bail reform- criticized for being too lenient and not putting suspects in jail.

“We have seen people commit crimes and then go out and commit much more serious crimes. They’ll commit a drug crime and then go out and commit an armed robbery. We’ve had several of those cases since bail reform,” said Kristyna Mills, Jefferson County’s District Attorney.

The topic was brought up briefly during Governor Kathy Hochul’s State of the State Address earlier this week.

“I would say we can agree, that the bail reform law as written, leaves room for improvement. And as leaders, we can’t ignore that,” said Governor Kathy Hochul during her address.

Her proposal would get rid of the “least restrictive” clause for more serious crimes. Right now, it requires judges, on charges where bail is an option, to enforce the least restrictive method to ensure the defendant’s reappearance.

Essentially, it gives judges more discretion but only on offenses that allow bail.

“The DA’s association, my office, we would be very supportive of anything that ensures that the public is protected, that the defendant’s rights are protected,” said Mills.

But St. Lawrence County District Attorney Gary Pasqua doesn’t believe it will help much.

“I think what really needs to be done, is the list of crimes where the judge can set bail. Where they can use their discretion to set bail at all, that needs to be expanded. Especially narcotic crimes, where there are very few if any crimes that can be set,” said Pasqua.

Lewis County Sheriff Mike Carpinelli says Hochul has good intentions, but thinks the whole bail reform law should be thrown out.

“Take the whole thing off the table again. Take it right back to the drawing board. Just taking bits and pieces out of it isn’t going to work. It needs to go back to the drawing board, have a healthy conversation with law enforcement across the State of New York,” said Carpinelli.

The Governor says she’d like to negotiate bail changes as part of the state budget which is due at the end of March.