New York

Ask most people who say they support eliminating bail why they support it, and you'll likely get some form of "it discriminates against poor people." Okay. If true, that's horrible. But can they provide any evidence it's actually true? "Well," they'll likely reply, "there are a lot more poor people in jail than rich people."

Okay. But does being poor excuse you for murdering someone? Or raping someone? Or stealing their car? Or holding up a family grocery store with a loaded weapon? And if a person is accused of committing these types of crimes, shouldn't there be some way to ensure they show up to face their accuser in court? Which is, after all, what bail bonding is all about. At this point, the anti-bail zealot will likely call you some derogatory name and back out of the conversation.

Why do we mention this? Because this is the mindset, reasonable people from coast to coast are faced with when trying to stem the tide of the anti-bail movement. A movement that seems poised to claim its latest victim in the form of the State of New York.

Great Sound Bites, Lousy Legislation

In June, lawmakers in Albany passed a series of measures designed to eliminate cash bail in the state for non-violent felonies. A news release from the Speaker's office after the vote trumpeted the "good news." "Wealth should not determine whether a person, accused but not convicted of a crime, will be jailed while awaiting trial" proclaimed Speaker Heastie.

Of course, it shouldn't. But things like a person's criminal record, the severity of the offense and other factors certainly should. By removing the ability of a judge to exercise their discretion in setting an appropriate bail amount and simply releasing everyone, New York is treading on very thin ice. Though they haven't yet completely broken through.

Why’s that? Because they did not wholeheartedly embrace the most outrageous aspects of the accountability-free society bail reformers are pushing for. That is, judges will still be able to set bail amounts or hold people without bail if they’ve been accused of particularly gruesome violent crimes. Or if there is a domestic abuse aspect to the crime.

The Thin Ice Underpinning Bail Bonds Reform

Still, lawmakers in Albany have created cracks in the ice. And it’s not too much of a stretch now to imagine a bill being signed in the not too distant future that sends New York State into the same freezing fiscal and judicial waters New Jersey fell into over 2 years ago.

In that case, New Jersey taxpayers were told that eliminating bail altogether would result in massive savings and safer cities. Instead, what happened was crime rates have spiked, as have the number of no-shows to court. In addition, the electronic monitoring system has been overwhelmed and ineffective. And the New Jersey judiciary has had to appeal to the state to increase taxes to pay for the whole mess.

The Voice of Reason

Thankfully not everyone is drinking the bail reform Kool-Aid. Take Albany County District Attorney David Soares for instance. After the legislation passed, he told the press, "The people who authored the legislation and passed the legislation refused to take into consideration the dangerousness of a defendant."

He also spoke some very inconvenient truths bail reformers would rather you were not aware of. Such as the fact that if someone assaults you and is released without bail they not only walk free, they walk free “with your information, the victim’s information, all eye-witnesses information, including address and phone numbers.” A chilling prospect indeed.

So Who Gets to Walk?

After Soares and others had the gall to speak the truth, "reformers" shot back that the legislation doesn't allow murderers, domestic abusers and rapists to walk out of jail after being arrested. Just everyone else. That sounds good, except everyone else includes:

  • Drug dealers.
  • Car thieves.
  • Identity thieves.
  • People who break into your home.
  • People who rob you at gunpoint.
  • People who try to run you over with their car.
  • People who sell guns to kids.
  • People who try to blackmail you.
  • And on and on.

All of these people and more will now be able to walk away from jail with only a promise that they'll show up in court. If you acted as a witness to their crime, they'll also walk out of jail with your address and phone number. Provided to them in the reform spirit of full disclosure. Doesn't that make you feel safer?

The Death of Common Sense

Some in the New York State Legislature tried to amend the bill to provide judges the ability to impose bail for Class A drug felonies. But those determined to bring down the bondsman defeated those attempts. The people of New York are now facing the same compromised future as the people of New Jersey and California, where crime rates have spiked, and record numbers of defendants have decided to skip out on their court dates.

Coming Soon to a County Near You

Those states are also beginning to realize the true cost of bail reform. In New Jersey, county governments have threatened to sue the state because they're being asked to spend $45 to $50 million to implement the new system. Money they simply don't have. So the state is releasing prisoners, but no one is watching them because no one can afford to. And this is the "progress" bail reformers want to bring to Adams County, Broomfield County, Weld County and Denver.