“It only took 21 days for it to filter down to our local municipality,” said a visibly upset Maybrook Police Sgt. Michael Maresco. He was referring to the New York State criminal justice legislation, known as bail reform, that took effect Jan. 1.
The legislation strictly curtails the use of cash bail and pretrial detention, with judges no longer able to set bail for a long list of misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies, including stalking, assault without serious injury, burglary, many drug offenses and some kinds of arson and robbery. The law also overhauled the rules governing the sharing of evidence (“discovery”).
Sgt. Maresco told the Maybrook Village Board at its meeting Monday night of a recent incident in which a woman, allegedly driving under the influence of some kind of narcotic, ended up in a snow bank. Her one and five year old children were in her vehicle. Someone had called 911 when they said they witnessed her driving in circles in a parking lot before ending up in the snow bank.
Police issued her an appearance ticket and drove her home. There was no option under the new law, Sgt. Maresco explained, to arraign her before a judge who could have set bail and/or sent her to Orange County Jail.
“After we drove her home,” he said, “she could have left the house and drove again. This is something they didn’t really think through.”
Sgt. Maresco also decried the immense amount of time he is taking to compile all the evidence police have against the woman and deliver it to the Orange County District Attorney’s office for delivery to the woman’s attorney.
“It’s not even 15 days,” he said of the required time limit.
The board agreed with Sgt. Maresco’s dismay.
“It’s the inmates running the asylum,” said Trustee James Barnett.
Mayor Dennis Leahy said he will be conferring with State Senator James Skoufis, who recently called for changes to the new law to allow judges to consider “dangerousness” in ruling on pretrial detention.
“When they passed the law, it was too quickly,” Leahy said, without careful and complete consideration of all the ramifications. Leahy said he will also have the police department keep track of all incidents affected by the bail reform law.