I hope the New Year celebrations were pleasant for all of you and that we can all look forward to great things in 2020. Such a goal should be particularly easy if you happen to be a criminal in New York City. As the PBA in Gotham is warning everyone, 2020 is going to be “the year of the perp” in the Big Apple. New laws that just went into effect are making life increasingly easy for criminals and reducing any disincentive to break the law. And to put it mildly, the cops aren’t happy about it. (New York Post)
It’s the Year of the Perp.
The start of the new decade couldn’t look better for New York’s criminal defendants, thanks to a slew of reforms and handouts that critics charge will return the city to the bad ol’ days.
Among the controversial changes is a new state law that requires prosecutors to turn over their evidence — potentially including witnesses’ names and contact info — to the defense within 15 days of arraignment.
Previously, there was no set time frame for prosecutors to comply, meaning defendants often didn’t get the information until just before trial.
If you go through the linked report, there are a few different laws in place now that are raising concerns. The first one is a rule saying that prosecutors have to turn over evidence to the defense (the process known as discovery) within fifteen days of arraignment. This rule is the one that I’m not so sure about in terms of negative effects across the board. When a person is charged with a crime, their attorney is supposed to have the evidence that will be presented against them so they can prepare for trial. (Or perhaps cut a deal if the evidence is overwhelming.)
Holding on to most of the evidence until just before the trial seems patently unfair to the defendant, so in some ways, this is perhaps the right thing to do. But the one exception – and the thing the DA seems most upset about – is turning over the actual names and contact information of witnesses, as well as the victim(s). If the defense attorney gives that information to the suspect and he or she gives it to their buddies, you can see how witness intimidation (or worse) could come into play.
Much worse is the new “bail reform” law that went into effect. Suspects will be eligible to be released without bail on charges including criminally negligent homicide, aggravated assault on a child and selling illegal drugs near schools. If the charges are serious enough to potentially warrant significant prison time, what incentive will the suspect have to not simply flee the state and disappear?
Thanks to another program endorsed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, even if we manage to put somebody away, upon their release from prison they are given a MetroCard, flip phone and two $25 Visa debit cards. And thanks to further decriminalization policies, prosecutors have stopped bringing charges in cases of jumping turnstiles in the Metro and public urination/defecation.
Both the District Attorney’s office and the police union are up in arms, urging people to contact their legislatures and abandon this soft on crime approach. But it’s tough to see what benefit will come of that. New Yorkers keep electing the same pack of liberal Democrats over and over again every year. Why would they change course now?