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Bail Reform

Recently, the New York State Legislature and the Governor have implemented reforms to New York State’s bail system, which went into effect in early 2020. However, a few months after the reforms started to take effect, the New York State Legislature and the Governor revised the law.


The intention of the law was to reduce the jail population and allow criminal defendants, who should be presumed innocent, to continue to be members of society while awaiting their court dates by allowing them to live and work while their cases are pending. One driving force behind the bail reform were the many criminal defendants who could not afford the bail imposed on them, meaning they would have to wait in jail while their cases are resolved. Another motivation behind the law was reducing costs of keeping criminal defendants in jail, instead of in the community in which they can live and work as normal, while their charges are pending.

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Bail is a certain amount of refundable money determined by the court, which the defendant or another person pays, to make sure the person returns to court for future court appearances. The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits excessive bail from being imposed on defendants. Typically, bail is imposed on a person with pending criminal charges to make sure the person has the motivation to return to court for their future court appearances. If the person comes back to Court the money (sometimes minus a small processing fee called poundage) is returned. If the person doesn’t come back to Court the bail money is forfeited or lost.

Another approach to cash bail is to consider a criminal defendant’s potential danger to the community when assessing whether bail should be imposed and just what amount at which it should be set. New York State judges are not allowed to consider danger to the community in making bail decisions. However, a judge also has the discretion to release a person on their own recognizance which means the court trusts the person to return to court with or without conditions and no bail imposed. In certain situations, in which a person is charged with very serious criminal offenses, the criminal defendant may be remanded, which means the person is brought back to jail with no opportunity for bail being imposed. If you have been charged with a crime and have questions about how the bail reform law may affect your specific situation, call our experienced team of New York criminal attorneys now for a free consultation.

The recent bail reform law which was enacted and implemented eliminates cash bail for many criminal offenses. The crimes included in the elimination of cash bail included most misdemeanors and many non-violent felony offenses. However, the reforms added crimes to the list which are again eligible for bail such as second-degree burglary when the person is charged with entering the living area of a dwelling, sex trafficking, promoting child pornography, any crime which is alleged to have caused another person’s death, first-degree vehicular assault, first-degree grand larceny, failure to register as a sex offender, bail jumping, and any felony which a persistent felony offender is alleged to have committed, among others. A persistent felony offender is a person who has previously been convicted of two or more felonies.

In addition, judges are able to impose certain conditions on criminal defendants in order to make sure they return such as requiring the surrender of their passport, requiring them to cease communication with alleged victims and other parties, and referring them to certain services before trial. Our team may be able to apply the new bail reform laws and reforms to your specific situation and advocate for the best possible result on your behalf.

If you have been charged with a crime and have questions about how the bail reform law may affect your specific situation, call our experienced team of New York criminal attorneys for a free consultation.

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