Last month, Albany lawmakers included in the state’s budget a series of changes to the cash bail system. Under this new system, most people arrested for selling drugs, most property crimes, theft, driving while intoxicated and burglary would not be required to provide bail money to ensure their appearance in court.
“One of the most fundamental duties of a legislator is to keep our citizens safe. This law betrays that duty,” said presiding officer Richard Nicolello. “Cashless bail will make our streets and neighborhoods more dangerous, will leave our residents more vulnerable to crime and will handcuff our law enforcement.”
The law relies on things like text alerts or supervision by a pre-trial services agency. In addition, skipping out on a court date will no longer won’t automatically earn a defendant a warrant for their arrest. The new law gives the benefit of the doubt, and most defendants will get a 48-hour window to appear in court voluntarily.
“My husband was struck by a drunk driver 15 months ago, and if this new reform was in place, the case would have been very different, and the person who committed this horrible crime would not have had to post bail,” said MADD member Mary Ellen Gormley. “This is horrible for the victims, and we need to try to have this stopped in Albany.”
Judges can no longer consider a defendant’s “dangerousness” in deciding whether he or she would be detained pre-trial; a common sense measure to keep violent individuals off the streets. When determining whether to detain somebody pretrial, judges are only allowed to consider evidence relevant to whether the defendant is expected to attend court dates out of his or her own volition.
“We’ve taken a giant leap off a cliff and are living in a very dangerous new world. Criminals in New York State will no longer be given bail for all misdemeanors and all non-violent felonies,” said Brian Sullivan, president of the Nassau County Corrections Union. “They won’t even be able to be taken into custody by our police. Criminals will be given a desk appearance ticket and immediately freed at the scene of the crime and advised to come to court at a later time,” This includes many levels of arson, DWI, many levels of rape, burglary, possession of a weapon on school grounds, selling drugs on school property, stalking, reckless destruction of property, possession of child pornography, forcible touching and many drug crimes. This has been labeled by its creators as benefits low income communities and specifically people of color. This is nonsense. Black people don’t commit crimes. Brown people don’t commit crimes. White people don’t commit crimes. Criminals commit crimes.”
—Submitted by Nassau County