ALBANY — The leader of the State Senate said Democrats will meet Tuesday with Long Island district attorneys, criminal justice advocates and others at the State Capitol to discuss New York’s new bail law, as opponents are increasing pressure for changes.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) said the informal group will include several Democratic senators as well as Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas and Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini.
Stewart-Cousins pushed back against the suggestion the conference comes in response to public pressure about the law, which is just three weeks old.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to say that,” Stewart-Cousins said, adding the panel would monitor the implementation of the law, to “separate fact from fiction” and to make sure “we are hitting our benchmarks.”
“This is what we do for so many of the big issues,” the senator said. “I’ve said all along we’d be looking at it (bail). So to formalize it now makes sense.”
The new bail law, which became effective Jan. 1, blocks prosecutors from asking a judge to set bail on crimes involving most misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies. Other felonies, sex crimes and domestic violence crimes are still subject to bail.
Another change in the criminal justice law dramatically shortened deadlines for prosecutors to share “discovery” evidence with defense lawyers in a case.
Prosecutors, sheriffs and Republicans in the State Legislature have said the law goes to far. Even some Long Island Democrats now have proposed amendments that would add a list of crimes, such as manslaughter, to those eligible for bail or to allow a judge to impose bail if he or she determines releasing a defendant would pose a danger to the community.
"We're going to hammer this every single day," Senate Minority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) said earlier this month, when the Legislature convened for its first day of its 2020 session.
Advocates who champion bail and discovery changes have said it makes the criminal-justice system fairer: Previously, defendants wealthy enough to afford bail would go free before trial whereas the poor would linger in jail and faced increased pressure to accept a plea bargain.