What Are Your Rights? The Purpose of Bail and Recent Changes in New York State Law

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

Sarah: The new bail reform laws in New York State went into effect at the start of the new year and government officials have seemingly faced a wave of backlash since. Stories of defendants charged with crimes of a serious nature being released shortly after being arrested, and in some cases, the same day, are becoming a common story on social media, of course in the news, you’ve heard it. Here to help explain the purpose of bail and the recent change in the law is managing partner Paul Harding from the law firm,  Martin, Harding & Mazzotti. Paul, welcome back.

Paul: Thank you.

Sarah: All right, so let’s kind of…we’ve talked about this topic, but of course, it’s still kind of at the center of the forefront of a lot of conversation right now, what is the intended purpose of bail?

Paul: So to ensure that you’re gonna show back up in court or at least get the best chance that you’re going to, we operate under the premise innocent until proven guilty, but we do find that a little bail gets people a little more incentivized through their family or themselves to show back up at court.

Sarah: So give us some insight, what are the factors that a judge looks at when determining bail?

Paul: The big one, the seriousness of the crime, right? If they think that if they let you back out, you’re gonna go commit something, maybe gotta cool off for a few days, so they keep you in jail. But they look at tons of stuff, ties in the community. Have you been here for 20 years or have you been here just kind of 20 minutes and maybe you live in the Ukraine, so are you gonna come back? And ultimately, I think they look at the economics that the people have, so you have two people charged with the same crime, someone has more economics, their bail could be significantly more than the same person for the same crime. So it’s a judge decision, or at least it used to be.

Sarah: Can you talk to us about some of the changes that were made to bail procedures?

Paul: Well, it flipped it on its head, so what we have now is virtually every misdemeanor, no bail. Every nonviolent felony, so just to list a couple, arson, burglary, stalking, drug-related, there’s no bail, there’s no discretion on the part of the judge. So you come in, you committed one of those crimes, you’re read your charges and you go right back out the door. And so, of course, we’ve seen some cases that are some situations recently that made the news, everybody is up in arms.

Sarah: Right. A ton of backlash recently. How do you see all of this playing out?

Paul: Well, I don’t think there’s gonna be a repeal because that really says, “Hey, we really blew it.” I think they’re gonna go like, “We kind of blew it.” There’s gonna be just amendments come out and the amendments are gonna clean up some of the things I just said, give judges some more discretion and add some crimes to the list where bail is allowable.

Sarah: All right, Paul, thank you so much for your insight.

Paul: You’re welcome.

Sarah: We, of course, appreciate it, a topic that we will be staying on top of for you. Of course, for more information on bail reform or any of your other rights, be sure to visit our website right there on your screen, cbs6albany.com.