County takes stand on bail 'reform'

County takes stand on bail 'reform'

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QUEENSBURY — Warren County supervisors asked the state Legislature on Friday to hold off on implementing changes to the criminal justice system that will put more criminals on the street and cost counties millions of dollars.

The county board voted 18-2 to pass a three-page resolution that asked the state to “amend or delay” its so-called bail “reform” and evidence discovery statutes that are to take effect Jan. 1.

The changes will do away with cash bail for many crimes, including serious felonies like second-degree burglary, second-degree manslaughter and making a terroristic threat, and result in police releasing defendants without arraignment or bail.

They will also make changes to require prosecutors to turn over all evidence within 15 days of an arrest, which has caused many counties and law enforcement agencies to have to add staff. The Warren County Sheriff’s Office and District Attorney’s Office had to add staff for next year.

The bail changes have been widely panned by law enforcement agencies and legislators on both sides of the political aisle, and drawn criticism from the state attorney general.

A number of supervisors criticized the way the change was made, as they were attached to the state 2019-20 budget with little debate among or input by stakeholders.

Others said they believed some bail changes were needed, but that the new law went too far in removing discretion from judges.

“I think this needs to be reworked so it works for everyone,” Queensbury at-Large Supervisor Brad Magowan said.

“When your own attorney general comes out and says there are problems with this, you know there are problems,” Queensbury at-Large Supervisor Doug Beaty said.

Warren County Administrator Ryan Moore said he had a hard time with a law that will let someone who threatens to bomb a building back on the street, potentially to commit the crime they threatened to commit.

“Yes, there is a need for bail reform, but this is not it,” Moore said.

Glens Falls 3rd Ward Supervisor Claudia Braymer said bail laws are a “complicated situation,” and while she supports some changes, the ones that will take effect Jan. 1 go too far.

Glens Falls 4th Ward Supervisor Bill Loeb said he believed changes were needed as the bail system has an “innate bias against people who don’t have money.”

Warren County Public Defender Marcy Flores spoke in favor of changes to the bail and evidence discovery processes, saying there has been no consistency in bail policies around the state, and defense lawyers haven’t always been provided evidence in a timely manner.

“New York state isn’t the only state doing bail and discovery reform. It’s occurring around the country,” Flore said.

Loeb and Lake George Supervisor Dennis Dickinson voted against the resolution, a copy of which is attached to the online version of this article.

The resolution will be forwarded to the state Legislature. A number of other counties have passed similar resolutions, and state legislators around the state have questioned the changes, but the governor’s office has had no comment on the concerns.

Don Lehman covers police and court matters and Warren County government. He can be reached at 518-742-3224 or dlehman@poststar.com

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