Monroe County Public Defender answers questions about her role at panel

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Monroe County’s Public Defender answered questions on Tuesday night about her role in the criminal justice system.

The United Christian Leadership Ministry held a panel featuring legal experts at the Church of God on Clarissa Street. Topics included what it’s like to be a public defender, what challenges public defender’s offices are facing, and why public defenders are important for people’s Sixth Amendment right to legal counsel when charged with crimes.

Another topic was the 2019 New York State law that ended cash bail for most people charged with misdemeanors or non-violent felonies. That law has been debated since it passed and parts of it were rolled back when the 2023 state budget passed.

Soon, Judges will no longer be required to use only the “least restrictive means” to ensure that defendants return to court. 

Public Defender Julie Cianca explained how the recent changes to the bail reform laws will affect the criminal justice system in Rochester. Cianca says she’s anticipating a major impact.

“It is unclear how judges will interpret the change in bail reform by removing the least restrictive measure,” Cianca said. “…Now that the least restrictive means has been removed from the statute, what crimes are judges going to start using the new standard. What are they going to feel it applies to and what is going to happen when they feel least restrictive is no longer the consideration.”

Cianca says the changes will take effect in June.