What You Need to Know About Bail Reform
New York’s bail reform laws have been a hot topic in the news. It’s been a highly divisive, hotly contested subject.
The law eliminates bail for most misdemeanor crimes and for some non-violent felony crimes.
The law was enacted because many defendants were sitting in jail for months awaiting trial, despite their right to a speedy trial. Proponents of reform note that this amounted to jailing these individuals just for being poor, especially since bail amounts were often set so high as to be unrealistic for people to pay.
Our court systems are generally so backed up, especially in the larger cities, that defendants can wait longer for trial than they should. In some case they wait for years.
They also have a harder time working with their attornies to defend their case. Studies have shown acquittal is far more likely for defendants who receive pretrial release.
Many defendants ended up forced into plea bargains just to get it over with.
Those who oppose the bill say it puts public safety at risk, even though theoretically almost anyone who could make bail could have gotten back on the streets if they weren’t denied bail entirely.
Regardless of your opinion on the matter, the current law does offer positive implications for you if you’re charged with a misdemeanor. The only misdemeanors for which a judge can still set mail are sex offense misdemeanors and msidemeanor criminal contempt crimes where there is an underlying allegation of domenstic violence.
If you are accused of a bail-eligible crime Judges must still consider your ability to pay the bail. The judge may set non-monetary conditions on you when you’re considered to be a flight risk, things like supervised release, court date reminders, travel restrictions, and weapons restrictions. The court may also use electronic monitoring instead of jail time.
Your goal should be to use any time out of jail wisely, working with your defense attorney to gather the evidence which might help your case.
The purpose of bail is, of course, to make sure you show up to court, so your secondary goal should be to ensure you do not miss any court dates. The court is permitted to issue a bench warrant 48 hours after your missed date if you do.
No matter what, you should be working closely with a qualified defense attorney to secure the best outcome for your case.