Excerpt form Watertown Daily Times - Feb 10, 2019
North country prosecutors say that if Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s proposals for bail and discovery reform in his suggested 2020 budget pass on April 1 it can result in a danger to communities throughout the state.
As suggested in the “Pre-Trial Justice Reform Act,” which, if passed, would be effective Nov. 1, 2020, cash bail would be eliminated as a pretrial option for defendants leaving what St. Lawrence County District Attorney Gary M. Pasqua said would be three options.
“So there would really only be three options: release on recognizance, a release under probation supervision, or we could ask for a detention hearing which would have to happen within three days of arraignment,” Mr. Pasqua said.
However, those hearings are limited to class A felonies and the class B and C violent felonies, he said.
Among the charges that fall under the category of class A felonies are murder, certain child sex cases and major drug trafficking charges, Mr. Pasqua said. Under the class B and C violent felonies fall charges such as first-degree burglary, first-degree assault and first-degree robbery.
“But it leaves out a ton. It leaves out every drug felony that’s not an A felony, so someone coming up here from New York City who is selling crack, who’s selling heroin, who’s selling fentanyl, they can come up here, regardless of their criminal history, they could be a three-time felon, they get this B felony, I can’t even apply to have them detained. They get released,” Mr. Pasqua said.
Moreover, he said people charged with class D violent felonies, like second-degree assault, and charges of promoting a sexual performance by a child, would not be able to be held in jail under the new reform.
“In our county, manufacturing methamphetamine, which is a big problem here, under this proposal, we bust a house where they are cooking meth, arraign them and then we have to let them right back out to go back to their house where they cook meth and they’re not going to stop that,” Mr. Pasqua said. “They’re not going to stop cooking. They’re not going to stop selling. That’s not how it works.”
He said it also takes discretion out of the hands of judges who send many people arrested on drug charges to county jail where they get a substance abuse evaluation and will be sent to treatment. He said that will no longer be the case.
An email seeking comment from the governor’s office was not immediately responded to Friday.
Jefferson County District Attorney Kristyna S. Mills said the region’s geography, bordering Canada, also brings challenges under the suggested bail reform.