News and Updates
NYS Law Journal
A deal on the state budget was reached overnight by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and leaders of the state Legislature, including changes to the state.s laws on cash bail, criminal discovery and the right to a speedy trial.
The legislation will eliminate the option of cash bail for misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies and require police officers to issue appearance tickets rather than make an arrest for lower-level crimes, according to the announcement.
That reflects what lawmakers had confirmed in recent days surrounding the forthcoming deal on bail reform: that cash bail will still remain for violent felony offenses, and possibly a list of other charges that would be carved out in the final legislation.
Cuomo and lawmakers claimed the changes will mean that approximately 90 percent of people charged with a crime do not face pretrial detention.
Changes to the state.s laws on criminal discovery will set new deadlines for the exchange of material with the defense that prosecutors intend to use at trial. A press release from Cuomo and lawmakers did not mention a specific deadline, but the Legislature had previously come to a deal that would require the first phase of discovery within 15 days of a defendant.s arraignment.
The District Attorneys Association of the State of New York had been critical of the legislation because they claimed it would allow the identifying information of witnesses to be exposed well before trial. They said that could lead to witness intimidation, and would make future witnesses hesitant to testify.
But the final legislation was written to assuage those concerns by allowing prosecutors to move for a protective order that would conceal the identifying information of a witness, according to the announcement.
"The legislation will ensure that victims and witnesses are protected from intimidation and other forms of coercion by providing prosecutors with the ability to petition a court for a protective order, shielding identifying information when necessary to ensure the safety of witnesses and the sanctity of the judicial process," a press release on the deal said.
Defendants will also be allowed to review whatever evidence prosecutors have against them before they decide to plead guilty to a crime, according to the announcement. That.s a significant change since the majority of criminal cases are resolved through a plea deal between prosecutors and defendants.
The legislation will also allow new oversight from judges to ensure that defendants are provided with a speedy trial under state law. Misdemeanor and felony cases are supposed to be resolved within three and six months, respectively, but they often take longer to be disposed. Under the deal announced overnight, judges will take a proactive role in advising litigants on how time will be charged throughout a criminal proceeding.
The new legislation will allow judges to inquire into a prosecutor.s so-called readiness to proceed to trial and require that they file all the appropriate paperwork before a statement of readiness is accepted. That.s to ensure the defendant has been provided with all the information in the case against them before trial, according to the announcement.
The reforms have been a top priority for lawmakers this year, who have been negotiating since January. Gov. Andrew Cuomo included his own proposals for the changes in his executive budget in January, but those were altered through discussions with lawmakers. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, lauded the reforms in a statement with the announcement.
"Since I became speaker in 2015, it has been my personal mission to correct the tilted scales of justice for New Yorkers, and this year.s budget agreement makes a giant leap toward realizing these goals: reforming our bail system, ensuring the right to a speedy trial, and making critical changes to New York.s discovery process," Heastie said.
The legislation will be included in one of ten omnibus bills that make up the $175 billion state budget. That spending plan is expected to be passed by lawmakers throughout the day on Sunday.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.