Assemblymember Bronson Announces Criminal Justice Reform Measures Included in 2019-20 Enacted State Budget

April 1, 2019

Albany, NY – Assemblymember Harry B. Bronson today announced that the 2019-20 enacted state budget included several measures to reform New York’s criminal justice system.

“For too long, the scales of justice in our state have been titled in favor of those with financial resources, at the expense of those who are less fortunate. I am proud to have voted in favor of a state budget that will begin to remedy these historical inequities and bring greater balance and protections to those New Yorkers who have to interact with our criminal justice system,” said Assemblymember Harry Bronson. “As an attorney, I have seen firsthand the impact of cash bail and pre-trail detention and I look forward to these new policies being implemented to create a justice system that provides a level playing field for all New Yorkers, regardless of their financial status.”

Included in this year’s budget is language to reform New York’s bail system, eliminating cash bail for misdemeanors and non-violent felonies. Prior to this year’s budget, individuals who did not have the financial resources to make bail were held in jail before their trial while those who could afford to pay bail were released, even if they were arrested for the same crime. This new policy will allow an estimated 90% of individuals who have been charged, but not yet convicted of a crime, to await trial outside of a jail cell reducing state costs associated with incarceration and improving equality for all New Yorkers.

This year’s budget also includes measures to strengthen a criminal defendant’s right to a speedy trial, as provided for under the sixth amendment of the United States Constitution. Provisions within the budget will place a greater impetus on the court system to advise litigants on the timing of their case, as well as directing the courts to inquire into the government’s readiness to proceed to trial in certain cases, allowing our courts to take a more proactive role in advancing cases in a timely manner thereby reducing the time a defendant is held in pre-trial detention.

Also included in the budget is language to reform the discovery process. Prior to this new legislative language, prosecutors were able to withhold basic evidence until the start of the trial which limited the ability of the defendant’s attorney to mount an informed defense. Now, defendants will be allowed the opportunity to review whatever evidence is in possession of the prosecutor prior to trial. Defendants will also be able to review evidence before they plead guilty to a crime.

“These changes will increase transparency and level the playing field so that defendants have the opportunity to prepare a comprehensive defense. It will also reduce the institutional inequities between prosecutors and defendants that often results in coercive plea deals. I am proud to have voted for these vital reforms,” Bronson added.