“Innocent until proven guilty” can feel like a sham when thousands of accused-but-unconvicted defendants languish in New York jails for lack of a few hundred dollars to make bail. Shockingly, 72% of people arrested in New York City end up at Rikers Island for at least a day because they cannot raise the necessary cash bail fast enough, even for a misdemeanor crime such as drug possession or assault.
The state of New York appears ready to address this injustice in 2019. A task force created by the New York State Unified Court System spent over a year discussing the issue and published its final report in February 2019. This report largely agrees with the latest drafts of bail reform legislation coming out of Albany. The likely changes include:
- More offenses should be designated for police issuance of an appearance ticket rather than an arrest.
- People accused of misdemeanor and some non-violent felony crimes should be released without cash bail, either on their own recognizance or with the least restrictive non-monetary conditions necessary to ensure their appearance in court.
- However, courts should be able to deny release if the defendant currently poses a credible threat to the physical safety of an identifiable person or group.
- State law should specify a limited list of crimes for which a defendant may be held in pre-trial custody, if the prosecutor makes a case for it.
- Judges’ use of electronic monitoring in place of jail detention should be subject to specific guidelines set out in state law.
New York City has already taken action over the past four years to reduce its jail population rather than wait for state-level reform. NYC now offers a program known as “supervised release,” a partnership with nonprofit groups that will help evaluate defendants and allow social workers to maintain contact with assigned defendants. Of the first 10,000 people who qualified for supervised release, 87% attended all of their court dates.
Other bail reforms instituted by NYC include: elimination of jail sentences of less than 30 days, expansion of the bail expediters program, and creation of an online website that family members can use to pay bail as soon as a defendant has been arraigned.
Contact Our Manhattan Criminal Defense Lawyers
If you are facing criminal charges for an offense such as misdemeanor assault or felony drug possession, you do not need to languish in jail. Contact an experienced New York City criminal defense attorney at Watford Jackson, PLLC by calling 855-WAT-JACK or 855-928-5225.