senate Bill S4483
(R, C, IP) 54th Senate District
- In Committee
- On Floor Calendar
- Passed Senate
- Passed Assembly
- Delivered to Governor
- Signed/Vetoed by Governor
Revises the procedures regulating the release of persons charged with criminal offenses pending trial.
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the criminal procedure law, in
relation to the issuance of securing orders
This measure is being introduced at the request of the Chief Judge of
This measure would amend the Criminal Procedure Law to reform the
State's bail statutes to: (1) require judges, when making bail
decisions, to consider public safety as well as the risk of flight;
and (2) establish a statutory presumption of release where defendants
are charged with non-violent offenses and they present no threat to
the community or risk of flight.
New York offers special challenges in achieving bail reform. In almost
every other state, judges are required by statute to consider public
safety when making a bail determination. In New York, they are not
required, or even permitted, to do so. Because of this, defendants in
New York are screened for their risk of failure to appear in court -
using a range of factors such as ties to the community, criminal
record, and past failure to appear - but not for the broader risk that
the defendant will continue to engage in criminal activity. As a
result, defendants may be put back on the street with insufficient
regard for public safety. Few, if any, would seriously argue that
judges should not consider the safety and well-being of people on our
streets or in our homes when making release decisions. This makes no
sense and certainly does not serve the best interests of our
communities and our citizens.
The time has come to join 46 other states, the District of Columbia
and the Federal government by changing New York's bail laws to require
judges to take into account public safety considerations. Fixing this
deficiency must be a top priority of any revision to our bail
statutes. Judges must be authorized to consider public safety as well
as the risk of failure to appear for court when making bail decisions.
To allow the present situation to continue is bad public policy at a
time when we need to do everything we can to be smart, effective and
principled, in combating crime and violence in our society.
But this should be just the start of a top-to-bottom revamping of the
rules governing bail in our state - a new vision of pretrial justice
in New York. Back in 1964, Robert F. Kennedy made a powerful case for
bail reform, saying: "Usually only one factor determines whether a
defendant stays in jail before he comes to trial. That factor is not
guilt or innocence. It is not the nature of the crime. It is not the
character of the defendant. That factor is, simply, money." While,
thanks to the efforts of reformers like Herb Sturz and others, much
has improved in our criminal justice system in New York since Kennedy
spoke these words, the reality is that we still have a long way to go
before we can claim that we have established a coherent, rational
approach to pre-trial justice. Our overriding goal must be to ensure
that pre-trial detention is reserved only for those defendants who
cannot safely be released or who cannot be relied upon to return to
court - and to do all we can to eliminate the risk that New Yorkers
are incarcerated simply because they lack the financial means to make
bail. More than simply being unfair, incarcerating indigent defendants
for no other reason than that they cannot meet even a minimum bail
amount strips our justice system of its credibility and distorts its
operation. Jailing defendants before trial can subject them to
economic and psychological hardship, limit their ability to assist in
their defense and place them at a serious disadvantage in the plea
bargaining process. It also places needless costs on our localities at
a time when we can ill afford to waste valuable public resources.
To avoid these results, our bail statutes must be reformed to make
clear that, where defendants are charged with non-violent offenses,
there are statutory presumptions that defendants who represent no
threat to public safety and no risk of flight shall be released
pending trial; and that, whenever defendants are released - whether on
bail or not, they will be released with the least restrictive
conditions possible unless prosecutors demonstrate that the defendant
poses a threat to public safety or a legitimate risk of failure to
appear in court. At the same time, to support judges when they make
determinations to release defendants pre-trial, we need to ensure that
they have authority to impose a range of release conditions when
necessary, such as curfews, drug testing, and substance abuse
This measure would take effect on November first after it becomes law.
Legislative History: None. New proposal.
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