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Prosecutors and defense lawyers agree: state bail process needs an overhaul

Posted Feb 8, 2013 2:30 PM CDT
By Terry Carter

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Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman of New York state’s Court of Appeals (the highest court) is asking the legislature to make big changes at either end of the bail spectrum: figuratively tighten the handcuffs on violent criminals and remove them from poor defendants charged with minor crimes, the New York Daily News reported.

New York is one of four states in which judges may consider only whether a defendant is a flight risk in determining bail, not whether they pose a danger to the public. At the same time, many nonviolent offenders sit in jail for long periods because they are unable to post even small amounts of money for bail.

“At either end, we are not doing the right thing,” Judge Lippman told the Daily News, adding that the system “is not fair, not safe.”

Lippman announced his plan Tuesday in his State of the Judiciary speech. Prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed with the proposal, the Daily News reported.

The change would include a “presumption of release” for nonviolent offenders, making prosecutors prove need for detaining them. As for those charged with violent crimes, an “evidence-based program with good risk assessment” would be applied, Judge Lippman told the newspaper.

But already there is resistance, with some Republican lawmakers with law-and-order reputations questioning the proposal.

“The last thing I would want to be doing is giving get-out-of-jail cards,” state Sen. Martin Golden, R-Brooklyn, told the newspaper.

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