Erie County DA Advocates for Changes to Criminal Justice Legislation to Protect Public Safety

Modified: December 10, 2021 12:18pm

12/10/2021

Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn, along with Buffalo Police Deputy Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia and New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shea, joined members of the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police, Inc., prosecutors, advocacy groups, and the family members of victims of violent crime to urge New York State legislators to modify recently enacted criminal justice reform laws. The announcement was held yesterday afternoon outside of the New York State Capitol building in Albany.

The New York State Association of Chiefs of Police, Inc. sent a letter to lawmakers to propose several amendments to the current legislation that would uphold the necessary criminal justice reforms to ensure fairness to the accused, provide protection to victims and witnesses, and improve safety in our communities. The proposed changes to the existing laws addressed concerns shared by law enforcement, prosecutors and crime victims regarding bail, discovery, juvenile offenders and appearance tickets.

Proposed Changes to Legislation on Bail

  • Eliminate cash bail to eradicate the inequities that allow wealth to determine a defendant’s release or incarceration in a pending criminal matter. Allow judges the discretion to impose conditions of release if the defendant poses a flight risk or danger to the community.
  • Allow judges to consider the defendant’s potential risk to public safety when imposing bail.

Proposed Changes to Legislation on Discovery Requirements

  • Stagger discovery timeframe to ease administrative burdens for prosecutors while providing enough material information to allow the defendant and their defense counsel to make informed decisions.
  • Limit discovery to relevant material information only for prosecution to declare ready for trial, not require discovery to include information that may be tangentially related to the case and provides no probative value.
  • Allow prosecutors to declare ready for trial after substantially complying with discovery requirements, which would prevent cases from being dismissed due to the current requirement to provide voluminous outstanding duplicative or non-material information.
  • Protect victims and witnesses by eliminating requirement for prosecution to provide sensitive information to defense counsel in order to meet initial discovery obligations in order to declare ready for trial. Postpone the requirement to turn over supplemental “sensitive discovery” that discloses information about victims and witnesses to defense counsel until 15 days before trial in misdemeanor cases and 30 days before trial in felony cases.

Proposed Changes to “Raise the Age” Law

  • Allow Youth Part judges to review Family Court records to prevent adolescent offenders from repeat appearances in Youth Part as a perpetual first-time offender.
  • Prevent illegal gun possession cases from being adjudicated in Family Court by eliminating the requirement that prosecution must show that the firearm was displayed in the furtherance of another offense. Allow prosecution to only prove that the adolescent offender possessed a firearm, or what appeared to be a firearm, or actively participated in a crime where a co-defendant possessed a firearm, or what appeared to be a firearm, in order for the case to remain in Youth Part.

Proposed Changes to Appearance Tickets

  • Expand the list of qualifying crimes to include additional serious charges, such as gun-related offenses, arson and hate crimes, which would not require law enforcement to release the accused on an appearance ticket.
  • Limit the ability for repeat offenders to continually receive appearance tickets in order to prevent their immediate release back into the community and reduce their likelihood of committing further offenses.

“While I continue to support criminal justice reform, these amendments must be made to the existing legislation in order to prevent further unintended consequences of these new laws that jeopardize our ability to effectively prosecute the offenders and protect the safety of our communities. I urge our elected officials to consider enacting these proposals, which would continue to ensure a fair and equitable system for those accused while enhancing protection for the victims and improving public safety for the people of New York,” said Erie County District Attorney John Flynn.