On January 3rd, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the 22nd proposal of his 2018 State of the State agenda – a sweeping, five-pronged reform package to overhaul the State’s criminal justice system. This comprehensive package—the most progressive set of reforms in the nation—will guarantee fairness for the accused by reshaping New York’s antiquated bail system, ensuring access to a speedy trial, improving the disclosure of evidence in the discovery process, transforming asset forfeiture procedures and implementing new initiatives to help individuals transition from incarceration to their communities.
“The Empire State has always served as a beacon of equality and social justice, and with these actions New York is once again showing the nation the way forward,” Governor Cuomo said. “For too long, our antiquated criminal justice system has created a two-tiered system where outcomes depend purely on economic status – undermining the bedrock principle that one is innocent until proven guilty. This sweeping overhaul will transform our criminal justice system by removing critical barriers, reaffirming our beliefs in fairness, opportunity and dignity, and continue our historic progress toward a more equal society for all.”
The New Legislation will:
- Eliminate monetary bail for people facing misdemeanor and non-violent felony charges;
- Expand the discovery process to include disclosure of information in a timely manner including evidence and information favorable to the defense; intended exhibits; expert opinion evidence; witnesses’ criminal history information; and search warrant information;
- Reduce unnecessary delays and adjournments in court proceedings, requiring that people held in custody – not just their attorneys – consent to a speedy trial waiver that must be approved by a judge and ensure that defendants are not being held unnecessarily when the prosecution fails to meet deadlines;
- Ban all asset seizures, unless an arrest is made and enhance reporting requirements for local law enforcement and District Attorneys; and
- Improve the re-entry process for individuals transitioning from incarceration to their communities.