After ongoing concerns over crime and public safety, New York’s cash bail laws will change once more, marking the third such alteration in the past four years. The new amendment will affect how judges consider bail in serious criminal cases, granting them more discretion.
The tentative state budget agreement announced by Governor Kathy Hochul will bring an end to the “least restrictive” standard in serious criminal cases. This move amends the 2019 measure intended to eliminate cash bail requirements for many criminal charges, aimed at addressing inequalities in the criminal justice system.
Last year, Hochul managed to expand the circumstances in which bail could be required, and this year she has secured further changes, giving judges more discretion. This change was initially opposed by top Democratic lawmakers in the state Senate and Assembly.
While Governor Hochul supports the core premise that no one should be incarcerated due to financial limitations, she believes that judges should have the authority to set bail and detain dangerous defendants. Data suggests that while recidivism has decreased for low-level offenses, it has increased for those charged with serious crimes.
The new agreement has been met with skepticism from both Republicans and progressives. Republicans, who have criticized the original 2019 law, are yet to see the specifics of the new changes. Progressives, on the other hand, accuse Hochul of rolling back the 2019 law, which was part of a suite of criminal justice provisions.
The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) has criticized the final product as “anti-democratic.” NYCLU Policy Counsel Jared Trujillo urged lawmakers to invest in initiatives and supports that prevent violence, such as access to housing, employment assistance, mental health care, and treatment resources, instead of ensnaring more New Yorkers in the criminal legal system.
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