Local law enforcement bracing for changes to NY bail system

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ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN/WETM) – On January 1, a number of criminal offenses will no longer qualify for bail. It’s something police and prosecutors are not happy about when it comes to public safety.

The long list, courtesy of The District Attorneys Association Of The State Of New York, includes:

  • Assault in the third degree
  • Aggravated vehicular assault
  • Aggravated assault upon a person less than eleven years old
  • Criminally negligent homicide
  • Aggravated vehicular homicide
  • Manslaughter in the second degree
  • Unlawful imprisonment in the first degree
  • Coercion in the first degree
  • Arson in the third and fourth degree
  • Grand larceny in the first degree
  • Criminal possession of a weapon on school grounds or criminal possession of a firearm
  • Criminal possession of a controlled substance in the first and second degree
  • Criminal sale of a controlled substance in the first and second degree
  • Criminal sale of a controlled substance in or near school grounds
  • Specified felony drug offenses involving the use of children, including the use of a child to commit a controlled substance offense and criminal sale of a controlled substance to a child
  • Criminal solicitation in the first degree and criminal facilitation in the first degree
  • Money laundering in support of terrorism in the third and fourth degree
  • Making a terroristic threat
  • Patronizing a person for prostitution in a school zone
  • Promoting an obscene sexual performance by a child
  • Possessing an obscene sexual performance by a child
  • Promoting a sexual performance by a child
  • Failure to register as a sex offender
  • Obstructing governmental administration in the first and second degree
  • Obstructing governmental administration by means of a self-defense spray device
  • Bribery in the first degree
  • Bribe giving for public office
  • Bribe receiving in the first degree
  • Promoting prison contraband in the first and second degree
  • Resisting arrest
  • Hindering prosecution
  • Tampering with a juror and tampering with physical evidence
  • Aggravated harassment in the first degree
  • Directing a laser at an aircraft in the first degree
  • Criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree
  • Criminal sale of a firearm to a minor
  • Enterprise corruption and money laundering in the first degree
  • Aggravated cruelty to animals, overdriving, torturing and injuring animals
  • Failure to provide proper sustenance
  • Animal fighting

“In many cases, we have lost our ability to get people off the street even for a short-term basis. Even just a cool-down period,” said Saratoga County Undersheriff Richard Castle.

The Undersheriff said for him, two of the other more concerning crimes include low-level Burglary and Robbery.

“So if someone goes to your house and kicks in your front door and steals items out of your house and we catch them, they will be released. If they do it an hour later, they’ll be released again,” he said.

He also fears the flight risk and said he foresees a number of bench warrants. “We’re now going to have to go find them when they don’t show up in court,” said Undersheriff Castle.

He also pointed out Aggravated Vehicular Homicide. That would mean someone like Dennis Drue, the driver who killed local high school students Christopher Stewart and Deanna Rivers, would be released until trial.

“It’s our job to arrest these people and bring them in front of a judge. It’s up to a judge to decide if this person is a danger to society and needs to be taken off the street. What they’ve done here is they’ve taken the ability away from the judges to do that,” said Undersheriff Castle.

He noted that the law was written with little to zero input from law enforcement or prosecutors. “The organizations that we are associated with, specifically the New York State Sheriff’s Association, were not consulted on this,” said Undersheriff Castle.

He added that an appearance ticket is simply a piece of paper and will not stop a repeat offense. “They’re only as good as the integrity of the person who gets it,” said he said.

Now all they can do is work to repeal. “We have not stopped talking to lawmakers since this began,” said Undersheriff Castle.

On January 1, 2020, there will not be an automatic mass release of inmates being held on those particular charges, but they will be able to file a petition to be let go.

According to the bill, the purpose of the law was “To end the use of monetary bail, reduce unnecessary pretrial incarceration and improve equity and fairness in the criminal justice system.”

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