by Dave Warner
New York’s Bail Reform Law will take effect on Jan. 1, 2020, but at what cost to residents in Little Falls?
Herkimer County law enforcement officials and the district attorney have expressed frustration about the new law and concern for the public’s safety. The new law will focus on handing out appearance tickets, instead of using bail for many offenses. It includes things like burglary, robbery, and assaults.
According to the New York State Bail Bondsman Association, the proposed legislation will cost nearly $300,000,000 in the first year alone.
Little Falls Police Chief Ron Petrie said, “In a small community like this, you know your neighbors, you know your neighborhoods and people don’t want criminals living in them.”
The Chief said that in the past they would arrest them, and there might be a chance that they’d be released, but more often than not, if it was a serious crime, they’d be incarcerated or held on bail and they’d be removed from the neighborhood so everyone would feel safe.
“Drugs and violence go hand in hand. Right now, with the provisions of the bail reform, specifically in the drug section, to say that dealing drugs is a non-violent crime? To me, there should be a disclaimer with that,” said the Chief.
When the neighboorhood does take action against a criminal, “They want to feel safe again, and under these new provisions, all we can do, even if it’s a felony drug charge…they’re going to be released.”
The Chief said that the judge now has to use the least restrictive non-monetary release.
He stated, “I don’t know of any new funding that has come to Herkimer County because of this new legislation. The probation department is already taxed. The case-loads are through the roof and now you’re going to add pre-trial release supervision to their table and the caseloads are just going to go up again.”
The Chief sees a decrease in warrants being issued. “This makes zero sense to me. One of the provisions in the law is that if someone fails to appear in court, under the new provisions if they miss a court date, the judge can’t issue a warrant. You have to first attempt to contact them in at least three different manners, text message or phone call, email and a letter through the US Mail.”
He said that on top of that before you can issue a warrant, you have to give them 48 hours warning that a warrant is going to be issued.
The Chief said, “From an officer safety standpoint if I’m disgruntled with law enforcement if I’ve been incarcerated before and don’t’ want to be incarcerated again, and I know if there is a warrant being issued, more than likely they’re going to either barricade themselves and build up their resources to fight the police or run from the police. You can go a long way in 48 hours.”
He says that some of this legislation is just nonsense. “I think there are 48 legislators that are involved in this and out of that, 44 of them are in Long Island and New York City. I understand there are issues with Rikers Island, but that’s a downstate issue. The same issues they have down there, are not the issues that we have here.”
“For all of these bail reforms to go across all of New York for a New York City issue, doesn’t make any sense to me, and it shouldn’t make sense to most of the people around here,” said the Chief.
For the Chief, a criminal is someone who knows what the law is and violates it over and over again. “For someone who just makes a mistake, or falls on hard times, or a one-time thing. That’s not a criminal.”
He believes that for some of the people who come through their doors, they will know what the new law means to them and how they can take advantage of it. “They’re going to know what they can get away with. The will know what we can do and what we can’t. The list of laws that you have to be released on. Things like involuntary manslaughter. So, if you’re driving drunk and kill somebody and you’re charged with vehicular manslaughter, you get released.”
According to the Chief, he’s not met a single person that believes that this policy makes sense. “It’s frightening to think that the minimal amount of people that I see go to jail now, now won’t go because of this bail reform law,” he said.
“Not only does bail ensure their presence in court, but it protects the community and the neighborhoods that they are currently residing in. That is something that needs to be taken into account.”
The Chief says that even though the law doesn’t take effect for six weeks, the impact is already being felt in courtrooms around the state. “The courts are already living by those rules because anybody that they incarcerate now come January 1st would petition the court for release.”
So, he says that the courts are trying to stem the flood of petitions that they would receive on that date by giving an appearance ticket.
“Now, we’re going to leave people out in society to the vices that probably led them to where they’re at. I just see it causing more issues than solving problems,” continued the Chief.
The Chief says that police departments have been very vocal about this problem, but now the public has to join the outcry by contacting their local representatives. “We were hoping something would change and were trying to forewarn the public about what is potentially coming into their neighborhoods. ”
“The politicians who put this law into effect have to hear that the public is against it,” he said.
Senator Jim Tedisco (R,C,I,REF-Glenville) and Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh (R,C,I-Ballston) have announced that they are sponsoring legislation to hit the pause button on the far-reaching bail and discovery reform legislation, but there is little time for this to be considered prior to the January 1, 2020 implementation date.
A list of crimes that a defendant must be released from custody without bail on starting January 1st is below.Cash bail PDF 2