Senator Jen Metzger announced Wednesday, Jan. 15, that she is co-sponsoring a bill (S7156) that would give judges the ability to determine if a person should be held pre-trial without bail based on their individualized assessment of public safety and potential flight risks.
The bail reform law passed in the last legislative session and enacted on Jan. 1 of this year eliminated bail for most misdemeanor offenses and non-violent felonies.
“The bail reform law passed last year sought to fix a system that everyone, including DAs and law enforcement, agreed was flawed, but the new law needs changes to better protect public safety,” said Metzger. “I have been meeting with stakeholders throughout my district on the reforms, and I believe we can strike the right balance. The bill I'm co-sponsoring upholds fairness and the principle of 'innocent until proven guilty' while also permitting judges to detain individuals who pose a public safety or flight risk, making our communities more secure.
"The old bail system was neither fair nor safe," the senator added. "Innocent people would be detained in prison while dangerous individuals got to go home before their court date — people like accused rapist Harvey Weinstein — depending on whether they can afford bail.”
A former Rosendale Town Councilwoman and liaison to her Town's police commission, Metzger has also called for state funding to enable local law enforcement and local courts to cover the additional costs of criminal justice reforms undertaken last year, including discovery reform.
'A step in the right direction'
Town of Crawford Police Chief Dominick Blasko, who also is and president of the Police Chiefs Association of Orange County said: “We are encouraged by Senator Metzger’s sign-on to this proposed legislation and believe it will benefit the criminal justice system’s ability to protect victims and our communities. This is a step in the right direction.”
Ulster County District Attorney David Clegg said: "I applaud Senator Metzger for having the right conversations with all the appropriate stakeholders on this issue. The current cash bail reform law, although well intended, leaves open the possibility that persons charged with non-qualifying offenses, who present a very high risk of flight or pose a serious threat of physical danger to another person or persons, will be released pending trial.”
Ulster County Sheriff Juan Figueroa added: “The recent bail reform included numerous unintended consequences. I agree with the premise of sensible bail reform, however we must be cognizant of the victims and their families. Public safety is at the forefront of law enforcement, a criminal justice system that is fair to all people is what we strive for.”
In addition to the judicial discretion bill, Metzger is also co-sponsoring a bill introduced by Senator James Skoufis (S7110) strengthening electronic monitoring provisions. The bill would allow judges the ability to require electronic monitoring for defendants charged with misdemeanor offenses who have previously been convicted of a violent felony.