For decades, New York's prosecutors have had the advantage of being able to play their cards close to the vest for months after charges have been filed. But this is set to change next year, and defense attorneys have never been happier. Learn more about how these criminal law reforms, slated to take effect January 1, 2020, will change the way crimes are prosecuted in the Empire State.
What Changes Are Coming to New York's Criminal Laws?
In the 2019–2020 state budget, New York lawmakers added a number of provisions designed to provide defendants with greater access to evidence at earlier stages of the prosecution than before. Under the new law, prosecutors will be required to turn over to the defendant all evidence they've collected within 15 days of indictment. Although prosecutors can request an extension of up to an additional 30 days if certain evidence isn't yet available, but a prosecutor's failure to turn over all the evidence in their possession within two weeks after charges have been filed can lead to dismissal of the charges entirely.
This legislative change would also eliminate cash bail for many lower-level misdemeanors or felonies, which also eliminates the defendant's penalty for failing to show up for court. Although an arrest warrant will be issued whenever a defendant fails to appear for a hearing or trial, if a defendant doesn't have any contact with law enforcement, this warrant is unlikely to be enforced.
Additionally, this law requires prosecutors to disclose all of a defendant's alleged statements to law enforcement before grand jury proceedings begin. Currently, these statements are disclosed only at arraignment or indictment, which leaves defendants little time to adequately prepare a defense before their bail or bond hearing. After the grand jury has convened and recommended indictment, defense counsel will be able to access portions of the grand jury testimony, when these transcripts were previously unavailable.
And for defendants who are ultimately convicted of non-driving drug crimes (like possession or even sale of illicit drugs), driver's license suspension will no longer be a potential penalty on the table. Knowing that you'll be able to keep your driver's license even if you're convicted of a drug crime can impact your decision of whether or not it makes sense to plead guilty.
Finally, prosecutors will be required to turn over names, addresses, and other contact information to anyone who prosecutors believe may have information related to a criminal charge or—even more importantly—a defendant's potential defense. This prevents prosecutors from "sandbagging" a defendant by withholding potentially exculpatory information until shortly before trial.
How Will These Changes Impact Criminal Defendants?
For defendants who are charged with crimes after January 1, 2020, these reforms will significantly speed up the discovery process. Instead of waiting months for prosecutors to turn over certain information that will allow a defense attorney to begin building a defense, defendants can start right away, resulting in more fruitful plea negotiations and shorter times to trial. Because it's usually in a defendant's best interest to proceed to trial as quickly as possible, speeding the process will be a boon to many defendants.
These reforms may be quickly felt in DUI and DWI charges, as the new law requires prosecutors to turn over to the defense all breathalyzer or blood test records, certifications, and device calibrations for the six months preceding a DUI arrest. For defendants who are going to argue that the blood alcohol content (BAC) results are erroneous due to faulty equipment, having access to this information early in the process can let you push the prosecutor for dismissal if the results received are favorable to your case.
Reach out to a criminal attorney to learn more.Share
13 May 2019
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