Congresswoman Stefanik joins St. Lawrence County officials in opposition of proposed criminal justice reforms
North Country Congresswoman Elise Stefanik has joined state lawmakers and St. Lawrence County officials on calling Governor Andrew M. Cuomo to reconsider new criminal justice reforms.
Cuomo says the new laws set to take effect in January will create a “fairer” criminal justice system, but opponents say the reforms will be costly for local governments and allow alleged violent offenders to be free as they await trial.In January, the governor’s bail reform will eliminate cash bail for most defendants. According to the governor, this will ensure an individual’s wealth is no longer the determining factor for pre-trial detention while awaiting their court date.
The discovery reform will also take effect. It will require the prosecution and defense to share all information in their possession well in advance of trial. Cuomo says this will enable defendants to review evidence the prosecution possesses prior to pleading guilty.
A third reform is intended to grant more timely trials. Cuomo says the law will “increase accountability, reduce delays, and ensure all parties are prepared for trial.”
The bill, to be implemented in January, would require local district attorneys to turnover witness names, statements, and contact information to the defense within 15 days of first appearance.
Some St. Lawrence County officials have expressed concerns about the ability to turn over materials within the time frame as well as the expense that would come with doing so in such a short time period.
New bail reforms also raised concerns, as they would allow “almost all” defendants to go free while awaiting trial, Stefanik said in statement released to the press. St. Lawrence County Sheriff Wells and other law enforcers have expressed concerns on the issue.
“We, as law enforcement officers within this state, take our responsibility of keeping our communities safe very seriously. It’s what we do. This action by the Legislature is a slap in the face to those who serve and protect but especially damaging to the victims we represent. This isn’t reform. These actions they have taken are a direct hit at the safety of the people of our state. I have not found anyone in my county that fully supports these changes and the majority are mystified that these ‘reforms’ would ever be enacted in our society,” Wells said in press release issued in October.
Stefanik, along with several other members of the New York State Congressional Delegation, have issued a letter to Gov. Cuomo expressing concern over the recently passed criminal justice reform bill in New York State.
The letter written to Governor Cuomo claims that due to burdensome standards as a result of the law, local district attorneys will have to increase their operating budgets by 30 to 40 percent.
“I am very concerned about the implications that this new criminal justice reform will have on our North Country Communities,” said Congresswoman Stefanik, R-Schuylerville. “After hearing from multiple district attorneys from across the state and many local elected officials, I urge Governor Cuomo to put forward reforms to be considered immediately in this upcoming legislative session. It is imperative that we work to find comprehensive solutions to criminal justice reform that keep our communities safe and keep the burden off local taxpayers.”
St. Lawrence County District Attorney Gary Pasqua is among those concerned about the new laws.
“The so called criminal justice reforms passed in Albany will drastically affect the ability of law enforcement to keep the citizens of New York State safe on January 1, 2020. They have removed the ability to keep violent and dangerous offenders incarcerated pending trial, including every defendant charged with selling or producing Cocaine, Heroin or Methamphetamine. In addition, they have placed requirements on law enforcement and prosecutors that can’t be met under current staffing and funding levels. No additional funding was provided by the state to help law enforcement or prosecutors meet these new requirements despite these reforms being passed as part of the budget,” he said in recent press release.