What Are Your Rights? New York Criminal Justice Reform

Announcer: The following segment is sponsored by Martin, Harding & Mazzotti.

Interviewer: New York’s criminal justice system has drastic changes coming in just a few months, really just after the New Year. The changes will alter different aspects regarding how a criminal case is handled, even allowing a defendant to revisit the scene of a crime even if it’s on your property. Now, here to help explain the changes is Managing Attorney Paul Harding from the law firm of Martin, Harding & Mazzotti. Paul, welcome back.

Paul: Thank you.

Interviewer: All right. So, several questions regarding some justice reform here. What exactly is bail in the context of a criminal proceeding? And what sort of changes are being made to bail procedures under this new law?

Paul: A lot there. So, bail in the traditional sense is that you’ve been charged with a crime. The judge says, “Hey, we want to make sure you come back. So, we’re gonna put some dollar figure on that.” So, most crimes allowed bail, and if you had the money or a bond or cash, then you’d be able to do that. If you didn’t have the money you’d stay in jail until your case was over. That’s all over. Brand new is all misdemeanors and any non-violent felonies, the way it’s gonna be now is you’re gonna be read your charges and you’re gonna just head home. And they, kind of, hope that you come back to court.

Interviewer: So, what exactly is the thought process behind changing the bail procedures in New York? And does this raise any concerns?

Paul: Sure. Well, constitutionally innocent until proven guilty, right? So, if you truly are innocent until you’re proven guilty, then you’ve just been charged, so you get to go out and do your thing. Also, I think a factor was that people who had money for bail or bond, they went home. The other people stayed in jail, couldn’t get a bail together until your case was disposed of, even if you were found not guilty. Concerns, you’re not gonna come back to court, right? So, you don’t have that family member put the money up saying, “Hey, your court date is Tuesday, you better get there.” And then the fear of somebody leaving court that day, and now going out and saying, “Hey, who turned me in? You know, maybe I’m gonna go back and I’m gonna write some wrongs very quickly.” And so, that is also a concern.

Interviewer: All right. Well, the new discovery procedures include allowing defendants to potentially return to the scene of a crime, and in some cases, even if it was a private residence. So, is there concern that allowing a defendant the opportunity to return to the scene of a crime, which could include the victim’s house, might actually cause more trauma or stress for the victim?

Paul: Yeah. Sounds more scary and it sounds horrible, you know, as it reads, but the truth is, a court has to grant permission for the defendant to go back. It’s an easy application. But they’re not gonna grant it, you know, if there’s a domestic violence thing, if there’s been some violence there. And most of the time, it’s gonna be the representative going back to mount a defense. This whole transformational component to the criminal justice system is they’re trying to layer, take this playing field that has always been kind of skewed a little bit towards the prosecution. They held all the cards, and they’re trying to level that out and make the playing field a little bit easier. So, yeah, I don’t see that somebody is gonna come back to someone’s house. The court’s gonna know about it and it’s going to be a case-by-case analysis.

Interviewer: All right, Paul, thank you so much. Of course for the latest on when and how these changes may affect you, be sure to visit our website posted right there on your screen, cbs6albany.com.