The future site of Babylon Town's new adjudication bureau in...

The future site of Babylon Town's new adjudication bureau in North Amityville, seen on June 24. Town officials pursued establishing the bureau in 2020 after New York State bail reform laws included a new discovery requirement that the names of complainants be turned over to the defense. Credit: Johnny Milano/Johnny Milano

The Town of Babylon is preparing for the transition to its new adjudication bureau by making changes to its code to remove criminal penalties for some infractions.  

With the shifting of most cases from Suffolk County District Court in Lindenhurst to the new town adjudication bureau in North Amityville, judges for the bureau will not be able to administer jail sentences, Town Attorney Joe Wilson said. However, the code changes — for violations that range from having an unauthorized bingo game to renting multiple dwellings without a permit — are flexible enough to still allow Babylon Town to pursue criminal punishment for offenses, he said.

The town received approval in August from the state to create an adjudication bureau but doesn’t anticipate it to begin handling cases until January.

“That’s why the flexibility helps,” Wilson said. “Making it only civil penalties, without the bureau up and running, we wouldn’t be able to prosecute our town codes.”

Building and fire code violation cases will remain in district court, he said.

The town issues about 1,000 summonses a year, according to spokesman Kevin Bonner, but jail time is rare.

“In my 15 years, I’ve only seen less than a handful of cases ever go on to have jail time on a town code offense,” Wilson said.

The town pursued establishing its own adjudication bureau in 2020 after state bail reform laws included a new discovery requirement that the names of complainants be turned over to the defense. As a result, residents became hesitant to report violations and “it shut off a pipeline of valuable information,” said town Supervisor Rich Schaffer.

“This allows us to be much more efficient, and I think we’ll get quicker resolutions to matters through this adjudication court,” Schaffer said.

Among the benefits is that the town will be able to have night court so residents won’t have to take off from work, Wilson said. In addition, fines for minor infractions can be paid online, he said.

“We want to continue to see the quality of life for our residents be at a high level, but we also don’t want it to be difficult for our residents to correct things,” Wilson said.  

The bureau, which will be in a new building the town is leasing from property owner Jim Kaplan for $476,000 per year, will also house the town’s new civil service department and its parking violations bureau, which are expected to move in later this summer.

The bureau will have a director, who will act as chief administrative judge, as well as several other judges, Wilson said. The town attorneys who currently bring cases before the district court will handle the bureau cases.

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