By David Remna
With New York State’s sweeping bail reform measures poised to take effect in less than two months, Senator Patrick M. Gallivan (R-C-I, Elma) and Senator Sue Serino (R-C-I, Hyde Park) are sounding the alarm and urging legislative leaders to take action before the changes jeopardize public safety.
Flanked by members of the law enforcement community and experienced victim advocates, the lawmakers announced the introduction of legislation that would build on the Victims Justice Agenda and give law enforcement the tools they need to keep perpetrators off our streets and away from their victims, according to a release.
“As a former New York State Trooper and Sheriff of Erie County, I am concerned about recent changes to our criminal justice system,” Gallivan said. “When laws are changed, we must never lose sight of the innocent victims of crime or the rights of law-abiding citizens. Judges must have the discretion to set bail when it is necessary to help protect victims and ensure the safety of our communities.”
“In the rush to reform, the voices of those who work on the front lines to keep our communities safe were drowned out and as a result, the bail reform measures will leave too many New Yorkers vulnerable come January 1,” Serino noted. “This is especially true when it comes to victims of domestic violence who will undoubtedly feel the dangerous impacts of these changes first-hand. With lives on the line, I am urging my colleagues to heed the warnings of these experts, do what is right and act on these measures immediately.”
The so-called “criminal justice reforms,” eliminate cash bail and pre-trial detention for most offenses and will result in the mandatory release of 90% of perpetrators arrested, regardless of criminal history. Many fear these ‘reforms’ will have dangerous unintended consequences that will jeopardize the safety of victims, particularly in cases of domestic violence, where victims are at especially high risk of re-victimization, Gallivan’s office said.
When the new bail reform measures take effect on January 1, 2020, judges will only have the power to set bail if they determine that a defendant is a flight risk, according to the release. A defendant’s criminal history, or the fact that they may pose a clear physical threat to another person, cannot be considered, creating a system in which a violent offender is likely sent back into the community, unsupervised and able to come into contact with their victim, the victim’s loved ones, and others.
The bills aim to specifically address these serious concerns. The first bill would expressly allow judges to consider a perpetrators’ dangerousness when determining whether a defendant should be held pre-trial. New York will be one of only four states that do not allow judges to consider the dangerousness of a defendant when setting a securing order.
The second bill would ensure that each crime under the aggravated family offense statue—domestic violence and sex crimes—would qualify for bail and pre-trial detention. When the new bail reform measures take effect on January 1, 2020, several of these particularly heinous crimes will no longer qualify for bail and pre-trial detention leaving these victims particularly vulnerable.