Hundreds of looters and rioters arrested by the New York Police Department over the past several days have been immediately released due to the state’s new bail-reform law that some say is turning the criminal justice process into a mockery and threatening public safety.
New York City police chief Terrance Monahan said “just about all” of the looters arrested will be released without bail.
Frustrated law enforcement officials across the state say repeat offenders are getting bolder by the day and claim the state’s policy gives lawbreakers the green light to commit crimes without consequences.
Louis Turco, head of the Lieutenants Benevolent Association, said the violence seen during the demonstrations in New York is the byproduct of the new law that requires defendants to be released without cash bail on a long list of misdemeanors and some felonies including arson and burglary.
“This has been put in motion by our politicians that have allowed the criminal element to feel as if there’s no consequences for any crime that you do and now you’ve seen this coming out,” Turco told The Washington Post. “…Now they go home and tell all their friends, ‘Listen, I got out the next day and nothing’s going to happen to me.'”
Former NYPD detective Oscar Odom told Fox News on Wednesday that he thinks it’s likely that “99.9 percent” of the people who were arrested and released from jail because of the new law have gone right back to looting.
But it’s not just happening in big cities.
Two and a half hours away in Albany, a 26-year-old man accused of smashing a $2,000 door and looting a hotel Monday night had been released from the county jail a week earlier despite having pending charges against him from prior arrests. Cops claim Lucas J. Kaplan brazenly swiped a badge, a credit card, cash and other items from multiple jail employees’ cars on his way out of lockup.
In most jurisdictions across the country, people who are arrested and charged with crimes are required to put down a refundable deposit to ensure that they will show up for their court date. If they don’t have the cash on hand, they often turn to a commercial bond company that fronts the money on their behalf. If the person arrested cannot afford to pay his or her bail, they remain in jail until their court hearing.
In 2019, New York lawmakers passed sweeping changes to the state’s bail law, limiting the number of crimes for which judges could set bail – largely to those who were believed to have committed violent felonies. Almost everyone else – about 90 percent of the state’s arrests – could walk out of jail after being processed.
Even in cases where bail is permitted, judges are no longer allowed to take into account the severity of the allegations or the possible danger the defendant may pose if released. The only criterion they can consider is whether the defendant is a flight risk who would fail to make future court appearances.
Should a defendant fail to show up in court, the judge is no longer allowed to immediately issue a bench warrant. Instead, the law says, the judge must give them 48 hours to come in before issuing a warrant.
During the first three months the law was in effect, New York’s jail population dropped significantly. At the end of 2019, the number of people jailed across the state was close to 20,000. By March of 2020, the number had dipped to 15,000.