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Legislators support CAP court for Schuyler County

As part of its ongoing effort to improve court efficiency, conserve law enforcement resources and protect the rights of criminal defendants, the Schuyler County legislature has endorsed a process for implementing a centralized arraignment program for after-hours arrests.

The vote took place on Monday. All legislators in attendance voted for the measure.

The plan is supported by a number of county officials involved in the legal system, including Sheriff William Yessman, District Attorney Joe Fazzary, Public Defender Wesley Roe and County Attorney Steven Getman. It was developed with input from town and village justices and the New York State Office of Court Administration.

Under the plan, anyone arrested within the county when courts are no longer in session, and not given an appearance ticket, will be arraigned in the lobby of the Schuyler County Sheriff’s Office in Watkins Glen, as opposed to a town’s jurisdiction. Town and village judges, prosecutors and public defenders will be placed on rotating on-call schedules for arrests made at night, on weekends or during holidays. There is state funding for implementing the plan, which will pay for the cost of installing a judge’s bench in the sheriff’s office lobby.

“Arresting officers must currently maintain custody of an arrestee until able to locate a local court and justice able to conduct the arraignment which is a process that often consumes officer time and can result in the arraignment occurring outside of the times when the Schuyler County Public Defender is able to appear as counsel for the defendant,” the resolution noted.

“Those charged with a crime are entitled to the assistance of legal counsel at all important stages of their case including at the initial criminal arraignment,” it continued.

A centralized arraignment part, known as a CAP, is not mandated by the state, but many rural counties have found it to be the most effective way of ensuring compliance with the requirements for counsel at arraignment.

The plan, which will be implemented later this year, is the county’s latest effort to improve court efficiency, conserve law enforcement resources and protect the rights of criminal defendants.

Other efforts have included an intermunicipal agreement with Tompkins County for that county to assist in administering the Schuyler County assigned counsel plan to provide legal representation to indigent criminal defendants and certain family court litigants.

That agreement, prepared by Roe and Getman with input from Schuyler County Administrator Tim O’Hearn and representatives of Tompkins County, has been praised as “a model approach and is consistent with statewide efforts to help municipalities identify opportunities for cost savings through inter-municipal cooperation, reorganization, and regionalization,” by the New York State Office of Indigent Legal Services.