Law enforcement wants cash bail reforms to wait

Concerns of some non-violent crimes that don't qualify for bail and issues with expedited discovery

Mike Baggerman
November 21, 2019 - 1:35 pm

Niagara County Sheriff's vehicle. March 27, 2019 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)

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CLARENCE, N.Y. (WBEN) - Law enforcement officials in Western New York are voicing concerns over the criminal justice reforms that will take effect on January 1.
 
Those reforms include cash bail, which was eliminated for people accused of most misdemeanors and non-violent felony offenses. It also also includes changes to discovery, which will require prosecutors to disclose all evidence to the defense within 15 days of an alleged crime.

Law enforcement officials from across the state held similar press events in recent days to voice concerns about the reforms. Niagara County Sheriff Jim Voutour said Thursday there are some offenses that are left out that bail should be required. For example, he said a man who sells heroin to high school children would not have to post bail if arrested on the felony.

"Under the new law, he will be arraigned and released on an appearance ticket," Voutour said.

He said drunk drivers who run from police and kill a civilian would also be exempt from posting bail as well as robbers inside of a home.

"No one up here thinks there shouldn't be some type of bail reform," Voutour said. "We call today on the legislature to reconvene prior to January 1 and to put the brakes on this. We're calling on them to look at what they've done. Bring in representatives from law enforcement. Most importantly, bring in victims rights representatives. Bring in prosecutors, district attorneys, bring in public defenders...Let us help craft something that can keep the public safe."

All told, Voutour said there are around 400 different crimes that could be committed where someone does not have to post cash bail. The District Attorneys Association of the State of New York told WBEN that they did not send out the list cited by law enforcement though they said crimes like making a terroristic threat, manslaughter in the second degree, and aggravated vehicular homicide are all considered "non-violent offenses"

"Under the new discovery act, anybody who is involved in anything as far as a witness or informant within 15 days of an arrest has to be turned over to the defense," Town of West Seneca Police Chief Daniel Denz said. "Their confidentiality and the safeguarding of the witnesses and the privacy of citizens unrelated to the case but somehow identified in the materials will all be at risk. An example would be in a bar fight...if somebody is injured and we interview witnesses...within 15 days, even though they weren't involved personally with the bar fight but give us information, their names will be turned over to the defense immediately."

There is some push back to the officials request for a moratorium. A few activists were at the press conference and called it "a propaganda barrage".

The reforms were part of New York State's budget and DAASNY is also calling on lawmakers to consider a moratorium on bail reform.

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