The 2017 Criminal Justice Reform Act

TOP The 2017 Criminal Justice Reform Act
Reform New York's Bail System
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Currently, our laws do not expressly allow judges to set conidtions required for release - the risk to public safety is not considered in deciding if an individual should be released for trial. 

In New York, reales is determined by an individual's ability to post bail, often resulting in the distadvantaged being confined for months and even years because of financial contraints - not because they pose a danger.

The Bail Reform Proposal:

  • Judges will be allowed to use risk assessments as part of bail determinations.
  • Low-risk individuals will be able to be released before trial and are not disproportionately punished.
  • High-risk individuals remain behind bars.

Pretrial Detention

New York will also work to offer pretrial detention alternatives for low-risk individuals, ensure safeguards for high-risk individuals, and examine cash bail through an advisory committee. 

 

 

Ensure Access to a Speedy Trial
Ensure Access to a Speedy Trial
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The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to a speedy and public trial - yet today defendants are held in custody for excessive periods of time awaiting trial. 

The Speedy Trial Proposal:

  • People in held in custody - not their attorneys - are required to consent to a speedy trial waiver that must be approved by a judge.
  • The defendant must appear in court before a judge before a waiver is granted.
  • Deadlines are set for speedy trial waivers so all parties understand when the trial is scheduled to occur.
  • The Governor will work with the Chief Judge to develop and further recommend steps to ensure a speedy trial is realized.
Raise the Age of Criminal Responsibility
Raise the Age of Criminal Responsibility
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New York is only one of two states that treats teenagers as adults in criminal court with potential imprisonment in local county jails or state prisons. Currently, there are 500 people under the age of 18 being held in local jails and state prisons. 

Without age-appropriate facilities, these teenagers face a greater risk of being involved in a significant assault, being victim of sexual violence, and potential suicide. 

New York will again push to raise the age of criminal responsibility, and remove minors from adult jails and prisons.

Improve Witness Identification Procedures
Improve Witness Identification Procedures
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Most witness identifications are conducted using photo arrays shown to a victim or witness of a crime to confirm or deny the identity of a suspect. 

They must be done fairly, without prejudice - using "blind" "double blind" administrators - to ensure identifications are free from unintentional or intentional bias. 

The proposed legislation will allow the use of photo identifications made by witnesses at trial where the procedures were conducted using proper safeguards. The identification would become more reliable and safeguard against wrongful convictions while ensuring that criminals are held responsible. 

This proposed legislation has been agreed upon by:

  • Innocence Project
  • New York State District Attorneys Association
  • New York State Bar Association
Record Police Interrogations for Serious Offenses
Record Police Interrogations for Serious Offenses
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New York does not currently require that interrogations of criminal suspects be recorded by law enforcement. These interrogations provide vital evidence against criminal offenders and exonerate innocent people. But there are cases of wrongful convictions and police officers subjected to erroneous allegations.

Video recording police interrogations of defendants accused of serious crimes is one of the most effective tools to combat false confessions. New York will act to protect the integrity and reliability of evidence obtained through custodial interrogations.

The proposed legislation will require video recording of custodial interrogations of suspects for serious offenses to prevent wrongful convictions and protect law enforcement from fallacious allegations. 

Extend the Hurrell-Harring Settlement Reforms
Extend the Hurrell-Harring Settlement Reforms
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"The provision of quality criminal defense by the government for those who cannot otherwise afford counsel is of paramount importance." - U.S. Supreme Court

Still, accounts of individuals receiving vastly disparate levels of court appointed representation are heard all too often. In 2014, the Hurrell-Harring et al. v. State of New York lawsuit revealed an alleged failure to provide the necessary level of indigent defense services in those counties.

Under Governor Cuomo's leadership, a new proposal will fund 100% of the costs necessary to extend the reforms to all counties and the City of New York. This will ensure that counsel at arraignment, caseload relief reform, and quality improvements are not just critical reforms realized only in a handful of counties. At the same time, New York will require appropriate oversight of the counties.