Bonacic Plea Bargain Bill Approved By Senate

John J. Bonacic

May 09, 2007

State Senator John J. Bonacic (R/I/C – Mt. Hope), today said that his legislation, Senate bill 3445, prohibiting the Division of State police from limiting troopers ability to plea bargain with motorists charged with vehicle and traffic law violations, other than alcohol or drug related charges, was approved by the Senate. The bill is sponsored in the Assembly by Assemblyman Joseph Lentol.

Last year, the Division of State Police changed the way "plea-bargaining" occurs – prohibiting troopers from doing it and instead handing off the job to localities, but without additional revenue to pay for the costs incurred by the local counties. Furthermore, other police officers are permitted to plea bargain. Senator Bonacic stated, "This is an unequal application of the law under the current system and a new unfunded mandate on local government."

The effect of the policy change is shifting the cost of prosecutions to localities, thereby placing an additional burden on property taxpayers while not even necessarily reducing State costs.

"Speaking as someone whose been there as an Assistant District Attorney, a County Legislator, and now a State Senator, I’d rather invest $1 million locally to put more police on the street, than put $1 million worth of lawyers in traffic courts. I am pleased my colleagues in the Senate supported this measure," said Bonacic.

The Bonacic bill will now be sent to the Assembly for action.