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Sen. Monica Martinez to vote against state budget without bail changes

State Sen. Monica Martinez (D-Brentwood).

State Sen. Monica Martinez (D-Brentwood). Credit: James Escher

State Sen. Monica Martinez said Monday she would vote against this year’s state budget if lawmakers do not amend new changes to state bail law.

Martinez (D-Brentwood) called on Senate colleagues to change the law — which eliminated cash bail for defendants facing misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies — and pledged to stay in Albany until amendments are made.

“It is the end of January, and nothing has changed with bail reform,” Martinez said Monday at a news conference in Hauppauge. “I’m as frustrated as you are.”

Martinez touted a bill she has proposed to give judges discretion to hold defendants in custody based on their criminal record, flight risk and potential threat to themselves, victims and the community. Defendants would be able to appeal the judge’s decision, she said.

Her bill echoes Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s proposal last year to allow judges to require bail if a defendant is deemed a threat to the community. Cuomo’s office did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

The bail changes, passed last April as part of the state budget, was intended to prevent defendants from being held in jail before trial solely because they cannot afford bail. Defense attorneys and other backers of the law say it also makes it less likely that defendants will be as pressured to agree to plea bargains in order to gain release from jail.

Critics, including many in law enforcement, have said the law went too far and is resulting in the release of dangerous people. Opponents also said the law increases the likelihood suspects will reoffend and retaliate against victims who report crimes while awaiting trial.

The State Senate has been wrestling with the law, which went into effect Jan. 1, since the beginning of the legislative session.

“As with all legislation, we are monitoring the implementation of justice reforms and we continue to work with all stakeholders to ensure these new laws help save taxpayer money, keep communities safe, and protect New Yorkers' Constitutional rights," said Mike Murphy, spokesman for majority Senate Democrats, in a statement.

Candice Giove, a Senate GOP spokeswoman, criticized Martinez for voting for bail reform last year, saying “we need to fully repeal her disastrous decision that already had deadly consequences.”

Martinez said the bail changes were part of the state budget, on which lawmakers only can vote yes or no.

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