NY Democrats Mull Changes to Bail Law

ALBANY (AP) -
new york bail law
New York State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (AP Photo/Mike Groll, File)

A state senator said Wednesday that some Democrats are considering a plan that would make changes to New York’s law that largely eliminated cash bail for misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies by giving more discretion to judges.

State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, a Democrat of Long Island, said that the changes would totally eliminate cash bail but provide judges more power over which people can be held in jail.

“It removes wealth from the system,” he said.

For certain crimes, he said, a judge could consider whether the person arrested will cause serious physical injury and their likelihood of returning to court.

Newsday reports the plan appears to have the support of Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

“We believe that this gets to the heart of the issues and that it is still progressive,” she told the newspaper.

The state’s bail law, which went into effect at the beginning of the year, eliminates cash bail for the wide majority of misdemeanors and nonviolent crimes but did not abolish the practice.

Kaminsky said he was part of a working group on the issue, which took input from officials that included prosecutors and law enforcement officials.

The bail law has spurred a fierce political debate in New York, often pitting criminal-justice advocates against prosecutors and law-enforcement officials.

Democrats have come under intense criticism over the law, which has largely dominated conversations about criminal justice at the Capitol.

The disagreement of the bail law has highlighted ideological splits between Democrats. Moderate members of the party want to rollback portions of the law, while liberals have resisted.