Local representatives react to the state’s new bail reform law

Local News

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Lawmakers will return to Albany on Wednesday, January 8th for the start of the new legislative session.

One item many lawmakers want to revisit is New York State’s bail reform law, which went into effect on January 1st.

Senate Majority Leader, Democrat Andrea Stewart-Cousins, told CBS News in New York that she is open to make some changes.

There’s been a great amount of controversy following the new bail reform law, which eliminates cash bail for those charged with misdemeanors and Class E felonies.

Across the state, law-enforcement officials and some Republican lawmakers want the Democratic-controlled Senate and Assembly to take a second look at the law.

However, Democratic State Senator Rachel May says “give it time.”

“I think yes, there certainly is room if there are very specific problems. For example, like how we define different crimes. I think there’s definitely room to think about other ways of legislating on that if we need to, but for example, the calls for inserting some kind of way to determine ‘dangerousness’ of a criminal, I think that’s a very slippery slope,” said Senator May.

NewsChannel 9 received statements from Assemblywoman Pamela Hunter, Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli and Assemblyman Al Stirpe.

Below are their full statements.

Understandably, many are concerned about the law that recently took effect in regards to cash bail. In our criminal justice system everyone is presumed innocent, but it was evident that many people were spending time behind bars that they would not have if they had the means to pay. Those who cannot afford bail were also more likely to make uninformed decisions on whether or not to take plea deals. It has not been proven that cash bail protects people or keeps people from committing crime.  Requiring someone to spend money is not a solution to safety concerns. People who were charged with these same crimes already had the potential to be released, if they had the resources to afford bail. In the coming weeks as session resumes, I will review input from constituents and my colleagues in order to consider legitimate public safety risks, separate from bail, that require pretrial detention in a fair and comprehensive way that does not reinstate a two-tiered justice system for those who can and cannot pay bail.

Democratic Assemblywoman Pamela Hunter

Assemblyman Magnarelli is out of the office, but agrees with the sentiment expressed by State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, that this is an area that may be reviewed in the coming session.

Democratic Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli

There has been a lot of discussion lately about the criminal justice reforms adopted last year. At the time of passage, many New Yorkers argued that bail set a financial litmus test for freedom that goes counter to the basic tenet of innocent until proven guilty.  While sympathetic to this perspective, I argued then that, while bail amounts for lesser crimes should consider the financial means of the accused, bail should not be eliminated altogether for some of these offenses. For I believe our criminal justice system should, first and foremost, keep our families and communities safe. That’s why I voted against these bail reform changes when it was a standalone bill in 2018. This past year, the changes to bail were included in the state budget, which also had many items critically important to our community, from funding for schools, seniors and law enforcement, to making the tax cap permanent. As these changes in the bail law have been implemented, specific scenarios have arisen whereby the release of an accused person has caused concerns about community safety. Simply put, some of these changes have gone too far. While I will always support the general goal of a justice system that does not unduly punish poorer members of society, I also think we need to look more closely at this new law and make sure community safety is considered when determining the ability to set bail for certain offenses. Throughout the 2020 session, I’ll continue working with my Assembly colleagues and local leaders to find reasonable solutions that protect our neighborhoods while also promoting equal justice.

Democratic Assemblyman Al Stirpe

The Cortland County District Attorney, Patrick Perfetti (R) will be heading to Albany on Tuesday, January 7th for a meeting with Senate Leader Stewart-Cousins to discuss changes to the law.

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