As part of his renewed push to reform the criminal justice system, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is proposing to eliminate cash bail for minor offenses.
Some on the law enforcement side said the proposal is not a well thought out plan, but others see it as a way to level the playing field for people accused of minor crimes.
While not entirely against it, Defense Attorney Robert King of Robert King Law Firm admits the plan isn't foolproof. “There’s too many times that judges are setting too high of bail. There’s too many times where trials are postponed too long. I think the governor's heart is certainly in the right place,” said King. “The law is not black-and-white, so to say this is what you have to do all the time there’s going to be times where it’s inappropriate.”
Gates Police Chief Jim VanBrederode said without bail suspects won't have a reason to come back to court and that could delay a case, and add to the backlog that already exists.
According to VanBrederode, there are nearly 830 outstanding warrants in Gates along and many date back a decade. “Justice delayed is justice denied, because behind every crime there is a victim. It's really not fair to the victim when the cases end up at a standstill,” he said. “It's going to create a problem with the criminal justice system; it's going to slow the system down even more and it's just going to create a bigger backlog in our opinion.”
In at least one other state, a similar bail plan backfired on the defendants:
Last year Maryland's courts approved changes to the state's bail system, instructing judges not to deny defendants the possibily of release if they were too poor to afford a cash bail demand. The intent was that defendants be jailed prior to trial only if they were flight risks or a danger to the community, not simply because they didn't have enough money.
Unfortunately, at least in Baltimore, the plan is backfiring. WBAL-TV, the local NBC affiliate, reports that the number of people detained in jail is rising, even as the number of arrests is dropping. Comparing March 2017 to March 2018, the station found that the average number of people jailed each day jumped 31 percent, from 655 to 856...
What's happening is easy to explain: Instead of making cash bail affordable, Baltimore's judges are choosing not to grant it at all in many cases where they previously would have.
The above article also touches upon the idea that eliminating cash bail for minor offenses could constitute an another "unfunded mandate," forcing counties to expand pretrial services and monitoring programs.