Add state Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner to the growing list of state legislators who are not pleased with the state's bail "reform" laws that are scheduled to take effect Jan. 1.
Woerner, D-Round Lake, called this week for a one-year moratorium on imposition of the changes, saying there are better ways to address the problems that they are supposed to fix.
Legislators locally and around the state have been questioning the changes, and how they were made, for months. Defendants accused of many serious crimes will no longer be subject to bail, so they will be released with nothing to secure their return to court, or protect the public from further crimes. The Legislature passed it with virtually no input from the criminal justice system.
The chase and crash that led to the tragic death of Horicon resident Joseph Turcotte earlier this year has been pointed to as a test case for the statutory changes.
Much of the criticism has come from Republican lawmakers, many of whom clearly aren't big fans of Gov. Andrew Cuomo for these changes and a variety of political and non-political reasons.
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But Woerner is a Democrat, and more and more the upcoming changes are drawing criticism from Cuomo's own party. Woerner voted against the changes when they were tacked onto the 2019-20 state budget bills.
"This new law, which takes effect next year, will force our police to release criminals who have committed serious crimes such as criminally negligent homicide, second degree burglary and robbery, and drug trafficking, just hours after their arrest," Woerner wrote. "We should rely on judicial discretion to make informed decisions on bail and release based on the context of the crime and the person who is accused of committing it. This law will undercut that process, and I am concerned that there may be serious repercussions for our communities."
Albany County District Attorney David Soares, also a Democrat, has been vocal against them as well.
So far, despite the concerns raised by police, prosecutors, legislators, crime victims groups and others, we have yet to hear any substantive statement from Cuomo as to why and how these changes will help the non-criminal public. You know, the people who stay out of jail, aren't accused of crimes and stand to be the targets of all of these (accused) criminals who will no longer be in jail.
Sadly, it's probably going to take the inevitable serious crime by someone who should have been in jail to get the attention of those who hastily passed these changes.
(For the record, I have reached out to Cuomo's office in the past on the calls for a moratorium, and not gotten a response to my questions. I tried again this morning.)
-- Don Lehman
Don Lehman covers police and court matters and Warren County government. He can be reached at 518-742-3224 or firstname.lastname@example.org