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Crime victims and judges concerned about criminal justice reform

Jennifer Lewke
Created: October 08, 2019 07:08 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Most people who are charged with committing a crime in New York will no longer see the inside of a jail cell until and unless they are actually convicted of the crime.

The State Legislature and Governor Andrew Cuomo, concerned that too many people are sitting in jail only because they can’t afford bail/bond while awaiting trial, made drastic changes to the bail system in New York to address the issue. The changes go into effect on Jan. 1, but local law enforcement, district attorneys and now crime victims have serious concerns about unforeseen consequences.

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Pete Navratil lost his mother and her partner in a drunk driving crash. The couple was stopped at a red light when a driver hit them from behind going more than 75 miles per hour, “the impact drove the bumper right through the back seat and both my mom and Jim were killed,” Navratil tells News10NBC.

The man responsible had been charged with drunk driving three days before the crash, he was awaiting a court date when this crash happened.

“(We later learned) it provoked, in his mind, a feeling like, ‘I'm screwed so what the heck’ and he proceeded to go on a drinking spree that ended Wednesday night after striking my mother and Jim and killing them at that intersection,” Navratil said.

And that’s the concern that many crime victims have with the changes coming to New York’s bail system.

“I understand due-process, but there has to be room in that due-process to be able to think about community safety and public safety,” said Navratil.

Former Supreme Court and Appellate Judge Joseph Valentino says that public safety is no longer something a judge can even consider, “if someone came before you, you would judge that particular case…every case was different but now they kind of make you a robot, they make the judges robots because they have to follow these certain restrictions where they don't have any discretion and I think that severely impairs the judiciary,” he tells News10NBC.

In all misdemeanors and many felony cases, judges will no longer even have the option to set cash bail or bond. In other serious crimes like criminally negligent homicide, manslaughter in the 2nd degree and grand larceny in the 1st degree, suspects will be issued appearance tickets and eventually come before a judge. Non-money related conditions can be set on a suspect’s release in some cases but Judge Valentino says there are issues with that too. 

“It's interesting, in the statute, they say we're not concerned with public safety, a judge should not be concerned with public safety in their ruling about bail, but one of the conditions that a judge can impose is that you have to surrender your firearm. Now, why would you have to surrender your firearm if it wasn't for public safety? So, it's contradictory.”

Judges are still able to set bail or send a defendant to jail without bail/bond in most violent felony cases, crimes of witness intimidation/tampering and violations of orders of protection.

NYS Assemblyman Harry Bronson voted in favor of the reforms, he has told News10NBC that he believes a person should not be imprisoned unless they’ve been convicted. 


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