New York, NY – Under the City of New York’s so-called justice reforms, suspects will no longer be held in jail for carrying weapons beginning in January.
Offenders found in possession of a wide array of weapons – including guns, switchblades, swords, machetes, and stun guns – will instead be issued a “desk appearance ticket” and “set free,” the New York City Police Benevolent Association (PBA) pointed out in a Facebook post on Tuesday.
Lawmakers also eliminated cash bail for hundreds of other criminal charges.
“This law starts on Jan. 1st for ALL of New York, not just New York City,” the PBA noted in another post.
On Nov. 19, Queens Senior Executive Assistant District Attorney James Quinn released a complete list of the offenses that judges will no longer be able to set bail for.
“Under the new bail laws…Judges in New York State cannot set bail on any of the following crimes (and most attempts to commit these crimes), and must release the defendant on non-monetary conditions, regardless of criminal record, ties to the community or previous bench warrants on other cases,” Quinn wrote.
The list stretched on for four pages, and included offenses such as stalking, arson, resisting arrest, money laundering in support of terrorism, rioting, vehicular assault, unlawful imprisonment, negligent homicide, and a slew of drug-related charges.
Criminal offenses against children, including child abuse, promoting child prostitution, facilitating female genital mutilation, and possessing or promoting a sexual performance by a child will also be treated with a mandatory release.
Obstructing governmental duties by means of a bomb, killing a police K9 or horse, and obstructing emergency medical services personnel were also included on the no-jail list.
The city of New York has even launched a plan to hand out Mets baseball tickets and gift cards to offenders as an incentive to get them to show up to their scheduled court hearings after their no-bail jail releases.
Critics argued that doling out movie tickets, subway passes, and various store gift cards will reward criminal behavior, but New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the incentive program will be a success, according to WCBS.
“In a world where we want speedier trials and we want the justice system to work, if small incentives are part of what actually makes it work, then that’s a smart policy,” de Blasio told WCBS on Wednesday. “It’s not something we developed. It’s something that has been worked on by experts over time and proven to work and proven to be a good investment.”
As confident as the mayor may be in the plan, many of those who have actually worked with offenders disagreed.
Staten Island District Attorney Michael McMahon said the program is part of a “deranged mandate,” the New York Post reported.
“We are reaching the point of the absurd when those who are accused of serious offenses are free to roam the streets or even rewarded with gifts while the rights of victims continue to be ignored,” McMahon railed.
“They are tying our hands, they’re tying our feet and they’re gagging victims from coming forward to stand up for their rights,” McMahon added, according to the New York Post. “Many people accused with violent crimes, serious felonies, are going to be back on the street.”
District Attorneys Association of the State Of New York President David Hoovler said that citizens should “brace themselves” for the onslaught of “lawbreakers who will be immediately back on our streets to re-offend without any meaningful supervision.”
“We’re going to have a major public safety issue on our hands,” bail bondsman Ira Judelson told WCBS. “It’s basically like going to school without a principal, without guidance counselors, without teachers and let students be in school and say ‘fend for yourself.'”
New York Assemblyman Mike LiPetri called the program a “travesty of justice,” WCBS reported.
“These are criminals in our communities who have solicited sex from children,” LiPetri argued. “These are criminals who solicited drugs in our neighborhoods, such as heroin, opioids, fentanyl.”
Nick Langworthy, leader of the New York Republican Party, said that the entire reform plan is “downright dangerous,” the New York Post reported.
“It’s absolutely an embarrassment to have this rush of release of prisoners with no additional protections,” Langworthy said. “And the chief architect is [New York Governor] Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo owns this.”
Fulton County Sheriff Richard Giardino, who spent 18 years as a judge, told WRGB there should be more qualifying offenses for bail.
"You leave for work in the morning, we arrest em’ at 7 o’clock on a raid. You get home at 6 o'clock, by the time you get issued an appearance ticket they're back out on the street,” Sheriff Giardino said.
The sheriff said that law enforcement officers are going to spend a lot of time tracking down people who fail to appear for court.
"You're going to see a large spike in people not going to court in the first six to nine months of this, then you're going to see our officers spending numerous hours, numerous days tracking people who have been bench-warranted,” he said.
The New York Police Department (NYPD) Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counter-terrorism John Miller called the plan “misguided” and said that 99 percent of people who are arrested will be released under the new plan, WLNY reported.
“Everybody who gets arrested for anything except for maybe murder and attempted murder is going to be released without having to pay any bail, right at arraignment,” Deputy Commissioner Miller said.
He said the new plan eliminated any incentive for criminals not to repeat their crimes, WLNY reported.
“Before they enacted this law, 89 percent, 89 percent of people were being released at arraignment without having to pay bail anyway,” Deputy Commissioner Miller said. “Now that’s going to go to probably 99 percent, which is going to be a problem because criminals are going to know at the time they’re arrested ‘I’m not really risking going to jail, I’m not really risking anything except going through the system and coming out at the other end.'”
The change will also affect how quickly case information will be doled out to defense attorneys and suspects.
“The [suspect] is immediately released without having to pay any bail or spend any time in jail, and then within three weeks they have the name of the person who was the complainant, they have the [names of the] witnesses, they have their addresses and their phone numbers,” Commissioner Miller said.
“That’s gonna be a real problem,” he added. “And one we could’ve seen coming.”
NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan agreed with his department’s counter-terrorism boss.
“You’re talking about people who can sell pounds of cocaine and walk out with no bail. Someone burglarizes your house and walks out with no bail,” Chief Monahan said. “We’re going to be facing some major issues come Jan. 1 if this doesn’t get changed.”
But the governor said he had no plans to change the new reforms because he doesn’t think a person’s freedom should hinge on whether they can afford bail, WRGB reported.
Law enforcement was furious.
“In many cases, we have lost our ability to get people off the street even for a short-term basis. Even just a cool-down period,” Saratoga County Undersheriff Richard Castle told WTEN.
Undersheriff Castle said he was most worried about low-level burglary and robbery charges, as well as the number of bench warrants that will be issued when people stop showing up for court.
“So if someone goes to your house and kicks in your front door and steals items out of your house and we catch them, they will be released. If they do it an hour later, they’ll be released again,” he explained. Also, “We’re now going to have to go find them when they don’t show up in court.”
The undersheriff complained that the bail reform legislation was passed without consulting law enforcement or prosecutors, WTEN reported.
New York Assemblyman Dan Stec said bail reform should have never been passed as part of the budget package and said the changes take away discretion from law enforcement and prosecutors.
"Their hands are tied. Instead of being able to exercise their professional experienced discretion, it's a one-size-fits-all now,” Stec said.
In June, New York Police Sergeants Benevolent Association (SBA) President Ed Mullins warned that the bail reform would lead to “a free-for-all” equivalent to the “movie The Purge,” the New York Post reported.
“This is the beginning of it,” Mullins said. “Law enforcement is going to be out there holding this bag of crap when it starts. The judges are going to get the blame when they start releasing people back into the streets.”