State Senate Democrats: Eliminate Cash Bail Requirements
ALBANY — New York state would eliminate the long-standing practice of requiring defendants to post cash bail under a proposal from Democratic lawmakers who say the idea would save money while addressing a glaring inequity in the criminal justice system.
States including Alaska and New Jersey have already taken steps to reduce or largely eliminate monetary bail, which critics say unfairly allows suspects with financial resources to go free while those without must wait in prison until their trial begins.
The bail reform proposal was one of three bills announced Tuesday by Senate Democrats. The other two would impose new requirements for taking criminal cases to trial quickly and change discovery rules to give defendants more information about their case before a plea bargain.
“Our criminal justice system is broken and we have to fix it,” Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, said Tuesday.
Under the bail-reform proposal, suspects accused of a violent crime who are considered a danger to others could be detained pending trial, while other defendants could be released with a promise to return or placed under community supervision.
But no one would be held in jail simply because they can’t afford bail, according to Sen. Michael Gianaris, D-Queens and the sponsor of the bill.
“Innocent until proven guilty — unless you’re poor. That’s the way our system works in practice,” he said. “The person of wealth is at home waiting for his trial.”
Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pushing his own proposal to end cash bail in misdemeanor and non-violent felony cases. Democrats in the Assembly, meanwhile, have proposed legislation that would reduce or waive bail for young, low-income offenders and expand the ability of charitable community organizations to post bail for suspects.
There’s no organized public opposition to the measures so far, though prosecutors and law enforcement have argued against similar proposals before. No vote on the legislation has been scheduled.