In the News: State Budget Includes Bail Reform

New York City has already reduced the use of cash bail, but the new state budget puts real reforms into place. Though cash bail won’t be eliminated entirely, it will no longer be used for misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies.

This means individuals of modest means who are charged with these crimes will have an equal chance at defending their cases effectively, just like their wealthier counterparts.

Why Bail Makes a Difference to Case Outcomes

Nobody wants to sit in jail, serving time until trial, which in some cases can be put off for years. Serving jail time while innocent is demoralizing, and it’s difficult to avoid committing some kind of additional crime while in jail simply by virtue of being there. This is true even for innocent defendants. Prison is its own ecosystem.

In addition, defendants who go to jail have already paid what’s called the “fixed costs” of incarceration: “stigma, loss of employment, housing, or child custody.

Finally, being incarcerated without the possibility of release, with no trial date in sight, prompts many defendants to plea bargain just so they can go home.

But just being out can help with fighting more complex cases. It means being able to work a lot more closely with the lawyer to contact potential witnesses, to talk to people who could help, to reconstruct the events of important dates to give defense counsel more information and evidence to pursue. Freed from the very real stress of prison, a defendant can think and act.

Of course, there are very real caveats about being out. You want to make sure you don’t complicate your case by talking to family members or friends about it, for example.

Other Reforms to Be Aware Of

The new budget will also require prosecutors to turn evidence over early and will require time for the defense to review the evidence with their client before any guilty plea may be entered.

You may also see a rise in “desk appearance tickets,” the same system used for most low-level marijuana charges in New York City now. Instead of arresting defendants for non-violent misdemeanors or even some non-violent felony charges, policy will now be issuing desk appearance tickets instead.

Studies show most defendants in this position do show up in court, and are aware of the consequences for failing to do so.

See also: What Happens Between Arrest and a New York Criminal Trial?

A Chance to Get an Attorney Earlier

Once you get a desk appearance ticket getting an attorney should be your first move. Take advantage of the time to research several on the Internet, and to interview a few likely candidates in person.

Without the help of a private attorney, being able to go home now will just be a temporary reprieve. With a public defender’s help you’re still likely to plead guilty to some crime. Without vigorous representation you could still go to jail, and suffer all the secondary costs thereof.

Take that DAT seriously and call our offices today.

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