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Criminal justice will be a whole new ballgame

September 20, 2019 11:37 am Updated: September 20, 2019 09:56 pm

Some things are not as simple as they appear. Take the sweeping criminal justice reforms that go into effect in January, for example. Changes to bail and pretrial discovery have prosecutors across the state scrambling to prepare for the rollout. And those are just the tip of the iceberg.

To know the laws that will transform New York’s criminal justice system for years to come, you have to understand the laws, so Columbia and Greene County district attorneys and their staffs are training hundreds of police officers to ensure a smooth transition. It will take time to sort out all the complexities, and police agencies may be joined in the classroom by others.

Just look at bail reform. Under the new bail restrictions, judges will not be allowed to order defendants jailed pending trial unless they are charged with certain violent crimes or sex crimes. Instead, desk appearance tickets will be issued in nearly all cases, including low-level felony cases. The court can select nonmonetary alternative conditions to assure a defendant returns to court, such as supervision by a pretrial services agency, reasonable restrictions on travel or, in extreme cases, electronic monitoring.

Wait, there’s more. Electronic monitoring can be imposed only if the person is charged with a felony or certain misdemeanors.

That’s only a fraction of what police officers in the field (and likely attorneys and judges) will have to know before setting foot in a courtroom next year. Come January, criminal justice in New York state will be a whole new ballgame. We hope the players take good notes and spend the next three months learning the rules of the game.