Under the fixes achieved that take effect today, a variety of crimes are now listed as “qualifying charges,” which makes them eligible for bail.
As published in the Staten Island Advance
So far this year, New Yorkers have been through a lot. Together, we faced a pandemic, witnessed social upheaval and civil unrest. The one constant since 12:01 a.m. on New Year’s Day has been that murder, shootings, burglaries and car thefts have increased compared to last year, as was predicted when the Criminal Justice Reforms passed under one-party Democratic rule.
These so-called “reforms” also generated a near-constant stream of news stories ranging from the tragic to the surreal. It proved, to anyone that might have been skeptical, that the root cause of crime is criminals, and that society is a better place when those that are dangerous, as well as career criminals, are kept behind bars.
Rising crime rates and blaring headlines told the story as police, prosecutors and the public threw their hands up in disgust as sex offenders, thugs and thieves strolled through the revolving doors of bail reform and were back on the street hours after they had been placed in handcuffs.
In a matter of a few short weeks, it became all too apparent that what those who voted against this were saying was not fear mongering but the truth — the law was severely flawed and needed to be amended. It also proved that what the law’s advocates were claiming was false –the reforms didn’t just eliminate bail for first-time offenders and low-level, non-violent offenses.
Together, we rallied, held press conferences and signed petitions. It was no easy feat, getting the same legislators and Governor Cuomo, who supported reform, to admit that it went too far and agree to rolling it back, but together we did. While the amended law goes into effect on July 1, understand that it is far from perfect. But, the changes are substantial and a step in the right direction in a legislature controlled by progressive Democrats.
Under the fixes achieved that take effect today, a variety of crimes, including felony drug offenses, sex trafficking, promoting sexual performances by a child, failing to register as a sex offender, a variety of assault and strangulation charges, vehicular manslaughter, grand larceny, possession of a weapon on school grounds, criminally negligent homicide and a number of other felony charges are now listed as “qualifying charges,” which makes them eligible for bail. This means that a judge can, once again, use his or her discretion to keep someone in jail pre-trial.
In addition, the new law adds a number of “court conditions” that can be applied by a judge as part of a no-bail release. These include surrender of passport, banning interaction with individuals involved in the case, referring the accused to mandatory counseling or to a stay in a mental hygiene facility, among others.
It’s been a long and hard-fought battle, but we persisted and were able to achieve significant changes to an ill-advised law that catered to the criminal element and did little to protect law-abiding New Yorkers. Not only did we add a significant number of offenses to those that qualify for bail, we added provisions to stop “unlimited chances” by ensuring that a person who either commits a crime after being released on their own recognizance, or while on probation or on post release supervision, will be mandated to face a judge in court who will then be able to set bail. We all remember the accused serial bank robber, who was arrested and released six times within a few weeks.
I’m happy to have worked with the District Attorneys’ Association, police unions, criminal justice experts and the public to demand common-sense changes to protect law-abiding citizens. While more can still be done to improve the law, the compromises we achieved will go a long way towards keeping criminals behind bars.
As I write this, we are already fighting a new battle as Mayor de Blasio and radicals on the City Council are pushing through a plan to defund the NYPD by $1 billion (nearly 17% of the overall NYPD budget), an action that will surely increase crime and make our city and its neighborhoods more dangerous. Defunding makes the changes we’ve made to bail reform all the more important and emphasizes the need for further changes to the law.
Their short-sighted plan is wrong and the decrease in police funding will only amplify the problems that our city already faces. It undercuts the fixes we applied to bail reform and cynically sets the stage for a continued rise in crime by slashing the resources the NYPD needs to keep our city and its people safe.