Gov. Hochul to pitch changes to bail reform law as part of sweeping public safety plan

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Gov. Hochul to pitch changes to bail reform law as part of sweeping public safety plan

Gov. Kathy Hochul is now proposing a sweeping public safety package including changes that will make more crimes bail eligible in New York after weeks of being accused of ignoring the city and state’s crime wave, The Post has learned.

The 10-point plan, obtained by The Post, includes a measure that would give judges more discretion to order bail and detain criminal defendants for a host of additional crimes based on their criminal history, including repeat offenders.

“For offenses that are not currently subject to arrest, police will have the ability (though not the requirement) to deny a Desk Appearance Ticket (DAT) and arrest an individual who has previously received a DAT within eighteen months. All second offenses within a certain period of time will be bail-eligible,” reads a copy of Hochul’s memo, which she’ll negotiate to include in her $216 billion budget proposal due April 1.

“The statute will set forth specific criteria on which judges will base their determinations, including criminal history and history of firearm use/possession.”

Crimes against subway riders and transit employees will also be subject to bail, per the document. More gun crimes would also be eligible for bail.

Frank Abrokwa.
Judges will be able to base their determinations on criminal history and history of firearm use/possession.
Wayne Carrington

The focus on subway crime comes just weeks after Frank Abrokwa, the Bronx poop attacker with a long rap sheet including 22 prior arrests and dozens of other sealed arrests since 1999, attacked a woman with his own feces.

Another proposal would make it easier to prosecute gun trafficking, modeled after legislation already introduced by state Sen. Kevin Thomas (D-Nassau) and state Assemblyman Charles Lavine (D-Nassau). Right now, someone must be in possession of 10 guns for them charged with a class B felony. 

Five guns must be involved for someone to be charged with a class C felony – but the plan would reduce these thresholds to three and two guns within a one-year period.

Another change pertains to the ‘Raise the Age’ statute — that increased the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18 — and includes granting judges the option to keep a case in criminal court, as right now prosecutors must show a firearm was displayed in order to do so.

“We have seen a dramatic increase in the number of teens under 18 carrying guns, with juvenile gun arrests up from 174 in 2018 to 439 in 2021. More than a quarter of these had a prior gun arrest,” reads the document. 

Police in the subway.
Crimes against subway riders and transit employees will be subject to bail.
William Miller

Many of the recommendations also appear similar to amendments sought by Mayor Eric Adams, who has pitched changes to the state’s bail and ‘Raise the Age’ laws as ranking among his top Albany priorities.

Adams has said he supports giving judges the ability to consider the “dangerousness” of defendants before deciding the terms of their release, if at all.

This would amend the controversial 2019 bail-reform law passed by the Democratic-controlled legislature, which limited a judge’s discretion to consider whether an individual should have to post bail.

The bail law was approved to prevent people from being detained solely because they didn’t have enough money to post bail, but problems immediately surfaced after law enforcement complained the statute is flawed.

Sources said Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin, a Harlem Democrat and former state senator, has been taking the lead on helping craft the package, as he’s Hochul’s point person when it comes to the administration’s response to gun violence.

Assemblywoman Inez Dickens (D-Harlem) also told The Post she brought up the need for changes to Benjamin in the wake of the poop attack, and he agreed.

The 10-point plan includes:

  • For the most serious felonies, allow bail determinations to be informed by factors including criminal history and history of firearm use and possession. Judges will be allowed to set bail not based solely on the “least restrictive” conditions deemed necessary to ensure a return to court. The statute will set forth specific criteria on which judges will base their determinations, including criminal history and history of firearm use/possession.
  • Make repeat offenses subject to arrest and bail-eligible
  • Make certain gun-related offenses, hate crimes offenses, and subway crime offenses subject to arrest and not [desk appearance tickets]. Certain offenses which presently are subject to desk appearance tickets will be made only eligible for arrest.
  • Make gun-related offenses bail-eligible: Certain gun-related offenses will be made bail-eligible.
  • Make it easier to prosecute gun trafficking
  • Targeted reforms of the discovery statute
  • Targeted reforms of the ‘Raise the Age’ statute
  • Increase funding for pretrial, diversion, and employment programs: Hochul’s budget already includes $83.4 million for pretrial services, but the governor would increase that amount – although the memo did not say by how much. It would also distribute the nearly $500 million appropriated for ‘Raise the Age’ implementation that has not yet been spent
  • Expand involuntary commitment and Kendra’s Law
  • Increase funding for mental health treatment
Eric Adams and NY Lt. Governor Brian Benjamin.
Mayor Eric Adams has said he supports giving judges the ability to consider the “dangerousness” of defendants and Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin has been helping craft the proposal package.
Stephen Yang

Addressing the bail law could minimize the political headache felt by Hochul over the last several months as she runs for election to a first full term as governor, but is likely to be met with staunch resistance from legislative leaders. Senate Majority Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Westchester) and State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-The Bronx) are staunch opponents of any amendments to cashless bail or the ‘Raise the Age’ statute despite growing support for fixes from Democratic lawmakers. 

The Post obtained the memo just days after Stewart-Cousins claimed that Hochul was opposed to any changes to the bail law.

Both pols also told Adams in no uncertain terms last month that they wouldn’t support any tweaks whatsoever.

The inaction by Hochul and the legislature has been a rallying cry for Republicans, as well as one of Hochul’s Democratic opponents in the governor’s race – Long Island Rep. Tom Suozzi

Bail was on the ballot last November, as Republicans crushed their Democratic opponents on Long Island in both Suffolk and Nassau County’s district attorney’s races as well as sinking ex-Nassau County Executive Laura Curran’s reelection bid. 

The GOP painted their Democratic opponents as soft on crime thanks to New York’s bail laws.

If crime is not addressed, the topic could similarly pose a massive issue as she campaigns for a full term ahead of the November statewide election to remain governor.

A recent poll released by Siena College also showed two-thirds of New York voters wanted the no-cash bail law tightened and said the law should be amended to take into account a defendant’s prior criminal record.

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