In 2019, New York altered its bail laws to ensure that Judges may only use bail as a tool to ensure that defendants return to court. The new laws even prevented judges from considering the potential harm a defendant might pose to others before setting bail.
As a result, there was a dramatic drop in the use of cash bail. It simply wasn’t used for most misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies. Most are either released on their own recognizance or are released with conditions, such as electronic monitoring.
Under the new law, judges may weigh specific new factors in setting bail, including whether a defendant is accused of causing serious harm to another person. The judge may also consider whether the defendant has a history of using or possessing guns.
The judge is still prohibited from considering whether or not a defendant might be “dangerous.” This is because factors like racial bias might play into that determination. In addition, it is asking a judge to “make guesses” about who “could” commit a crime even before they’ve been convicted of any offense. While some proponents of the dangerousness standard have suggested using algorithms, those algorithms have been found to be inaccurate, in many cases reflecting the biases of the programmers.
The number of crimes for which defendants may be required to pay bail has expanded as well. Bail may be set for nonviolent repeat offenses now, even minor offenses like shoplifting. The law also lowers the threshold required to bring a charge of gun trafficking.
Prior to bail reform, many individuals would have to sit in jail in dangerous conditions whether or not they’d committed any crime, waiting months or even years to see their day in court. Prosecutors often use this fact to coerce people into taking plea deals. Either way, by the time they do, they’ve often lost jobs, lost custody of their children, lost their homes, and lost their families.
State bail data shows that only 2% of bail offenses led to re-arrests on violent felonies. However, they’re released, most people return to court without incident.
If you’ve been arrested, one way to make sure you are released on your own recognizance, or at least with livable conditions, is to reach out to a private defense attorney. We help you through every step of the criminal justice process and work tirelessly to help you bring your case to its best possible outcome.