NYC Defenders Call on Judges, District Attorneys to Implement Criminal Justice Reforms Immediately Instead of Waiting Until 2020

The Legal Aid Society, New York County Defender Services, Brooklyn Defender Services, The Bronx Defenders, and Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem released a joint statement today calling on New York City District Attorneys and judges to begin immediate implementation of the criminal legal reforms enacted into law this past weekend.

“The reforms to bail, discovery, and speedy trial mark a landmark shift in how people accused of crimes will be treated in New York by creating a fairer, more transparent, and more equitable legal system. Unfortunately, these reforms are not scheduled to become law until January 1, 2020.

District Attorneys and judges have the power to implement many of these reforms now through discretionary decision-making. For example, the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office has had a broad discovery practice for many years and has increasingly consented to release on recognizance. District Attorneys can and should voluntarily implement early and complete discovery. The new law mandates discovery to be turned over as soon as practicable, but no later than fifteen days after a case begins. Additionally, District Attorneys and judges can accommodate the Legislature’s decision to eliminate money bail for the majority of offenses starting today. Money bail should no longer be used to detain individuals accused of misdemeanors and nonviolent felony charges. Any bail that is set in other cases should be affordable, and judges should prioritize the use of unsecured and partially secured bonds.

It is unthinkable that individuals accused of committing misdemeanors or low-level felonies between now and January will be subjected to the same broken system that the Legislature and Governor just remedied, while District Attorneys and judges have the tools at their disposal to take action and mitigate these harms now. Starting today, nobody should be held on bail that they cannot afford, without seeing the evidence in their case, and nobody should be deprived of their right to a speedy trial. We must look forward to the new realities of the criminal procedure law, and dispense once and for all with the unfair system that has harmed so many.”