New York may end monetary bail for people facing non-violent charges

NEW YORK — People arrested for misdemeanors and non-violent crimes may be released without paying bail under a new proposal.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, as part of a reform package to overhaul the criminal justice system, hopes to eliminate monetary bail a way of keeping low-income people who can’t afford the payment out of jail. Monetary bail would still be an option for violent offenders under the proposal.

“For too long, our antiquated criminal justice system has created a two-tiered system where outcomes depend purely on economic status – undermining the bedrock principle that one is innocent until proven guilty,” Cuomo said. “This sweeping overhaul will transform our criminal justice system by removing critical barriers, reaffirming our beliefs in fairness, opportunity and dignity, and continue our historic progress toward a more equal society for all.”

Alleged non-violent offenders would be released either on their own recognizance or with conditions imposed by the court, such as reporting to a pretrial services agency. Violent offenders may also be eligible for non-monetary bail if a judge reviewed the case and the defendant’s personal and financial circumstances. The idea, state officials said, is to ‘level the playing field for all defendants’ regardless of their economic standing.

Prosecutors would also be required to disclose information and evidence more quickly to defense attorneys under the proposed changes. Gov. Cuomo also wants to reduce unnecessary delays and adjournments in court proceedings.

“The Empire State has always served as a beacon of equality and social justice, and with these actions New York is once again showing the nation the way forward,” Cuomo said.