Bail Reform Tops Governor Cuomo’s 2017 Agenda

In an op-ed published in the New York Times this week, Governor Cuomo continued a fight for criminal justice system reform by pledging to propose a bill to the State Legislature focusing on bail reform, discovery reform, and changes to how cases are scheduled.

Despite the fact that most people arrested are released on their own recognizance, many who are charged with nonviolent crimes are required to obtain bail to avoid pretrial detention. “As a result,” said the Governor, “our jails are filled with people who have yet to be proved guilty of any crime, and the system today has developed into one with two tiers: if you can make bail, you are set free; if you are too poor to make bail, you are punished.”

Governor Cuomo’s bail reform bill will propose that anyone facing misdemeanor or nonviolent felony charges be released without bail. “Those who pose a current danger to a person or persons or pose a risk of flight can still be held in detention, with due process, but no longer will people go to jail for the crime of being poor,” said Gov. Cuomo.

A justification for the current bail system has been that it ensures appearance at court appearances. However, despite the fact that the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution guarantees criminal defendants a quick and speedy trial, Governor Cuomo, an attorney himself, admitted “no one can look at the operations of our court system and conclude that speediness is anyone’s priority.”

The bill also aims at changing procedures that currently allow defense attorneys to postpone court appearances; many times without the approval of their clients. Specifically, Governor Cuomo proposed that “any waiver to a speedy trial be put in writing and signed by the defendant.”

The Governor’s proposed bill will be presented to the legislature later this year.

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