Criminal justice laws impact on defense attorneys

NY Capitol News

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Criminal justice reform in New York will take effect on January 1, 2020.

Defense Attorney Lee Kindlon says the new bail reform law will do away with about 75 percent of cash bail cases.

“From a defense attorney point of view, it’s long overdue,” he said. “Because what bail does is it says, if you have enough money, the criminal justice system will work for you. But if you’re poor or you don’t own a home and you can’t get bail, well, then you have to go to jail while we figure out what’s going to happen to your criminal case. And, that is inherently unequal.”

In his experience, he says clients benefit from being at home during a case.

“When you’ve got a client who’s in jail, sometimes all they want to do is take a plea to get home, and it’s inherently coercive for them to be sitting in jail and not have the means other than a guilty plea to get released from custody,” he explained.

The discovery reform changes will require prosecutors to give the defense discovery within 15 days after the defendant is arraigned.

“What discovery reform does is say, okay, we’re going to give you the information,” Kindlon said. “We’re going to let you know what the prosecution knows, and we’re going to allow you to make an informed decision. Do you want to go to trial or do you want to make a plea and resolve your case? This is a brand new world.”

Kindlon says some of the reforms are taking place already.

“In my experience over the past couple weeks, I’ve seen a lot of courts doing their best to come into compliance with the law now because everybody knows on January 2 people like me and my colleagues are going to be in those courts saying ‘Hey, new rules are going into effect. Let my client go because you have to.’ So we’re trying to get ahead of the curve.”

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