Republican legislators, union leaders, advocates call for changes to state’s ‘cashless bail’ law

Jessica Parks
Republican legislators, union leaders and advocates called for changes to the state's cashless bail reform. (Photo by Jessica Parks)

Nassau County Republican legislators, union leaders and local advocates called last Thursday for the repeal or amendment of the state’s cashless bail reforms.

Under the law, cash bail will be eliminated for all misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies. Police officers will also be required to issue a desk appearance instead of performing a custodial arrest for misdemeanors and Class E felonies.

Brian Sullivan, president of the Nassau County Corrections Union, said these offenses include “many levels of arson, DWI, many levels of rape, burglary, possession of a weapon on school grounds, selling drugs on school property, stalking, reckless destruction of property, possession of child pornography, forcible touching and many drug crimes.”

The law was included in the state budget passed April 1 and is expected to go into effect in January. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in his office’s budget release that this will ensure that about 90 percent of cases where people are charged but not yet convicted of a crime will remain out of jail before their day in court.

Cuomo argued that the cash bail system unfairly burdened low-income populations who cannot afford to pay to be released from jail before trial.

A March 26 tweet from the governor said “cash bail means that if you have money, you are free before trial and if you don’t, you sit in jail. That isn’t justice.”

State Assemblyman Ed Ra (R-Franklin Square) said the new bail reforms need to be addressed before the close of the current state Legislature session in six weeks.

He said individuals who are charged with Class 4A felony drug offenses, which deals with the possession and sale of narcotics, will no longer be required to post bail.

He said these are offenses prosecutors use to charge and build cases against “major drug kingpins” and now the judge will have no choice but to release the individual.

“Without consideration to their dangerousness, without consideration to whether they are a flight risk,” Ra said, “they have to just let them go.”

Furthermore, defendants who skip their court dates won’t immediately be issued a warrant, and many will have a 48-hour window to voluntarily appear in court before being penalized.

Mary Ellen Gormley’s husband was struck by a drunken driver 15 months ago. Gormley, a member of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said, “if this reform were in place, the case would have been very different, and the person who committed this horrible crime would not have to post bail.”

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