Since New Year’s Day is around the corner, various laws will go into effect in New York once the clock strikes midnight. Some of these new laws will make significant changes to the state’s criminal justice system.
The following are a few of the criminal justice reform laws that will go into effect on January 1, 2020:
- Bail reform – New York’s bail system will undergo drastic changes in order to reduce the number of people held in custody before their trial date. Specifically, cash bail will no longer apply to individuals facing misdemeanor or non-violent felony charges. In addition, police officers will need to issue desk appearance tickets to individuals facing misdemeanors or Class E felony charges, instead of making an arrest and putting them in jail. These changes will make sure approximately 90 percent of people who are charged with a crime will not be incarcerated prior to their day in court. However, violent offenders will still be arrested and jailed.
- Right to a speedy trial – Although a person’s right to a speedy trial is detailed in the U.S. Constitution and New York law, that is not always the case. Waiting for trial can be a long process that can result in being held in pretrial custody for a significant period of time—without being found guilty of any wrongdoing. Such delays and lead to job loss and other detrimental consequences. Starting on January 1, New York District Attorneys must be ready for trial when they declare they’re “ready.” As soon as the DA announces their readiness, the judge is required to make an inquiry of actual readiness that is on the record. Lastly, speedy trial motions can now be made orally, instead of in writing.
- Discovery reform – Rather than waiting until trial begins for defendants to see the evidence against them, the prosecution must provide such information to criminal defense attorneys within 15 days of the defendant’s arraignment, giving them a chance to review the evidence before pleading guilty to a crime. Discovery must include statements from the defendant and witnesses, contact information of witnesses, grand jury transcripts, photos and video recordings, DWI records, test results, expert opinions, and Brady evidence. The 15-day deadline could be expanded by an additional 30 days if the DA files a motion.