New York's Bail Reform: Fair Or Dangerous?

New York's Bail Reform: Fair Or Dangerous?

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Staring next year, people accused of a vast majority of crimes in New York state won't be seeing a jail cell.  The new budget almost completely eliminates the cash bail system.  

Governor Cuomo says that means about 90 percent of people arrested will be released to wait at home for their day in court.   

The changes are drawing fire from law enforcement officials, who call them misguided and potentially dangerous.

"When your child spits on you, or when your child wrecks your home, do you say you're going to spank them tomorrow and let them get away with it?  That's what we're basically doing. We're going to give them an appearance ticket and they're going to go right back out and commit the same crime again to another person," said Lewis County Sheriff Mike Carpinelli.

"We're not going to be a safer state with the drastic length these changes are going to," said St. Lawrence County Sheriff Kevin Wells.

Cash bail will be reserved for the most serious crimes, like violent felonies, sex offenses and sponsorship of terrorism. 

It's too short a list, says St. Lawrence County District Attorney Gary Pasqua.

"They've excluded burglary second-degree, where you break in to someone's home, as something we can ask for bail for. How that in any way shape or form makes the state of New York a safer place, I have no idea," said Pasqua.

Defense lawyers like Gary Miles say while every case is different, there is a benefit to limiting cash bail.

"It's not a bad idea at all. There are a lot of people that I, as a defense attorney, and my colleagues feel sit in jail who really don't need to be in jail," said Miles.

The state Association of Defense Lawyers is praising the changes, calling them "momentous reform" toward a fair, balanced justice system.   

But it could come with a higher price tag. 

Police and prosecutors must now provide evidence to defense lawyers more quickly - within 15 days of a person's arraignment. To meet the deadline, Pasqua says he may have to ask county lawmakers for more staff. 

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