Bail Reform Amended, Again

T. E. McMorrow
Carl Irace, an East End attorney, was a strong proponent of reforms passed last year. He does not believe amendments passed last week endanger the core of last year’s criminal procedure law reforms.

The bail reform of 2019, which was passed as part of the 2020 state budget, was modified again in the new state budget that was voted into law by both houses of the New York Legislature last week. Multiple crimes were added to the list of those for which bail can be set.

The new law also gives judges more discretion to set bail in cases where a defendant, already charged with a crime involving injury or destroying property, is arrested again on a similar charge.

“The 2019 reforms amended discovery laws,” Assemblyman Fred Thiele said in a press release issued last week touting the amendments to last year’s criminal procedure reform measures. Discovery is the process in which the prosecution lays out evidence it intends to use against a defendant.

The 2019 version of the law required prosecutors to complete discovery within 15 days of a defendant’s arraignment. This was a major change from the way discovery was applied before last year’s budget was passed. Defense attorneys frequently complained that discovery under the old law was an almost open-ended process. Thiele felt the 2019 reforms went too far.

“This new law recognizes that discovery exchange between prosecution and defense is an ongoing process,” Thiele said about the law passed last week.

The prosecutor now has up to 35 days after arraignment to produce his or her evidence if the defendant is not in custody, or 20 days to produce if the defendant is in jail.

Also, the entire discovery process for code and traffic violations will be loosened up under the newly-amended law.

Carl Irace, an attorney who alternates with Brian DeSesa representing defendants arraigned in East Hampton on weekends and off-hours, was a strong proponent of the 2019 bail and discovery reforms. The 2020 amendments, he believes, “are reforms we need now.”

He agrees with the type of crimes added to the list where bail could be set — one of those being vehicular manlaughter.

When Lisa Rooney, a Montauk woman who allegedly recklessly and drunkenly struck and killed a bicyclist last October in Montauk, was first arraigned in East Hampton Town Justice Court, Justice Lisa Rana set nominal bail, saying she felt her hands were tied by the reform laws, which did not include cases in which a vehicular accident results in death.

“Any offense where someone dies can be bail-eligible,” Irace said.

The statewide funding for the reforms, which have created the need for additional manpower for district attorneys and police departments alike across the state, will, for the next year, come from the forfeiture funds seized in just one county: New York County, better known as Manhattan.

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