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Orange County NewsFor Immediate Release Contact: Christopher BorekThursday, October 3, 2019 845.291.3276, 845.238.4245c
Changes in the Law, Effective January 1, 2020, Will Result in
Pretrial Release of Many Defendants on Serious Charges, Regardless
of Their Risk of Failure to Appear in Court, and Regardless of
the Possible Impact on Public Safety
Orange County District Attorney David M. Hoovler, on Thursday, October 3, 2019, issued a statement criticizing upcoming changes in the law of bail in New York State, changes that will be effective on January 1, 2020. Those changes were enacted on April 1, 2019, as part of the State’s budget process, with virtually no input from prosecutors, police, or the courts; with almost no consideration of the effect of the changes on public safety; and with no funding to enable the changes to work properly.
Effective in January, defendants charged with, among other things, residential burglary, almost all drug sale and possession offenses, some homicides, assaults resulting from drunk driving collisions, many weapons offenses, grand larceny, bribery involving public officials, and many charges involving child pornography, among other charges, will all be released from custody, without the courts even being able to consider bail. A defendant’s release will turn only on the type of charge, without any consideration being available for the defendant’s previous criminal record, his previous record of making court appearances, or his likelihood of committing further crimes while out of custody.
A very recent Orange County case illustrates the negative impact on public safety that the bail changes will create. According to a police investigation, on Tuesday, October 1, 2019, at about 8:15 p.m., a motorist driving an SUV made an illegal U-turn on Route 9W in the Town of Highlands. That illegal turn caused a motorcyclist on the other side of the road, driving in a correct lane of travel, to collide with the SUV. The motorcyclist was thrown from his motorcycle and killed. The SUV driver fled the scene. Police investigators later located the SUV driver in Mt. Kisco, Westchester County, where he was taken into custody and charged with leaving the scene of a motor vehicle incident involving death. The Monroe Town Court set bail on the SUV driver in the amount of $20,000. Federal immigration authorities have also placed a hold on the SUV driver, for possible deportation.
If that case had arisen on January 1, 2020, or thereafter, the SUV driver would have had to be released from state custody, without the possibility of bail being set, despite the seriousness of the crime and despite the defendant’s ties to a foreign country.
A non-exhaustive list of charges for which a defendant must be released from custody, without bail, after January 1, 2020, includes:
“Since before I took office, I have been an advocate of reform in the criminal justice system,” said District Attorney Hoovler, “but reform must be sensible, if it is not to result in a reduction in public safety. I almost hesitate to call the upcoming bail changes ‘reforms,’ because they don’t change our law for the better. The bail changes enacted in Albany this year are reckless; forced through the budget process where they didn’t belong; without adequate consideration of how they will adversely affect public safety; and without adequate input from most of the agencies that work in the system, prosecutors, police, the courts. I urge all of Orange County’s citizens to contact your state senators and assembly members, to express your concern about the negative effects that the upcoming changes in the bail laws will have.”
A criminal charge is merely an allegation that a defendant has committed a violation of the criminal law, and it is not evidence of guilt. All defendants are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial, during which it will be the State of New York’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.