BUFFALO, NY – The impact of bail reform in New York has recently revealed some concerning numbers, in that nearly one-third of defendants issued appearance tickets wind up missing their scheduled court appearances.
Law enforcement officials and legal experts recently weighed-in on what bail reform looks like after having it as a reality for over one year.
Samuel Davis, who is an attorney and of-counsel at The Dolce Firm, feels that bail reform was something that needed to be addressed and implemented before it came into reality in the onset of 2020. But even he noted that the execution of bail reform, “shook the system”.
Buffalo Police Deputy Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia is aware of what the intended spirit of bail reform was meant to address, saying the following:
“The last thing you want is somebody arrested on some non-violent property type crime, who’s not a repeat criminal, and sitting in the holding center, because they can’t come up with $1,000, or even $100. That’s just not necessary.”
Yet, looking back at how bail reform actually came to be, Deputy Commissioner Gramaglia is well aware of the prevalent flaws that can lead to some serious issues within the community, saying:
“We’ve seen repeatedly defendants arrested multiple times with pending gun cases where our officers are out there, putting their lives at risk, arresting individuals – violent felons with guns again and again.”
Defendants facing gun-related charges in the era of bail reform has been one of the topics hosting the highest contentions. Deputy Commissioner Gramaglia stated that judges handling some of these cases are being far too lenient on bail amounts:
“The problem that we’re seeing repeatedly is judges giving very low bail and in some cases, no bail.”
The new procedures surrounding bail reform within New York, with several offenses that would’ve previously prompted for defendants to have a bail hearing before a judge, are now simply being cited with court appearance tickets and the defendants are set free.
Deputy Commissioner Gramaglia commented on that saying:
“When they’re picked up on that warrant, if it was a qualifying offense to begin with, they have to be released. The judge cannot set bail, they have to walk out the door.”
Erie County District Attorney John Flynn noted that while it’s been a year since bail reform was enacted, it’s still unclear as to the exact degree that the released defendants are contributing to the likes of violent crime, saying:
“The reality of the situation, okay, is that we, meaning the police, don’t really know if it’s a concern. Because the majority…of the homicides, and the non-fatal shootings are unsolved. I don’t know who did it. So if the guy is out on bail and he did it I might not know.”
Despite there being a lack of quantifiable data to examine in order to understand to what degree bail reform is impacting violent crimes, Erie County DA Flynn is nonetheless frustrated that his office can’t even entertain the possibility of requesting bail amounts for certain alleged offenders.
“[Before the enactment of bail reform] I told all my assistant DAs, ‘Listen here, from now on, don’t ask for bail on any misdemeanors or non violent felons, unless there’s a darn good reason.’ And, the problem is now with the bail reform is that there’s no longer that darn good reason “John Flynn” category.”
But what can be measured, data-wise, is the ratio of appearance tickets issued versus defendants appearing in court. In Erie County and the state courts in 2020, out of the 4,347 people issued appearance tickets for court, 1,339 defendants didn’t show up to their first court date.
That’s nearly a third of all defendants.
And judges can apparently only issue warrants for failure to appear on desk tickets if a defendant misses two court dates. Reportedly, 570 warrants were issued in 2020 for failure to appear in court under desk tickets.
But even when these sort of failure to appear warrants get issued, Deputy Commissioner Gramaglia said there’s not nearly enough “manpower” to just go rounding up these individuals with warrants:
“We certainly don’t have the manpower to go out looking for every single warrant that’s been issued, you know, through Buffalo City Court. But, there are obviously certain levels of crimes, very higher level, violent crimes and things of that nature that we absolutely will send people out for.”
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While the DA and the deputy police commissioner agree that the concept of bail reform is inherently a good thing, they also agree that there’s some areas of opportunity to make the implementation of it better.
A prime example of the flawed nature of bail reform can be examined in a report we at Law Enforcement Today brought to you back in October of last year.
Here’s that previous report.
NEW YORK CITY, NY – Another sordid tale of New York City’s revolving door of arrest and release for alleged miscreants comes in the form of an 18-year-old male whose been allegedly very criminally active this summer.
A man who had been accused of everything from head-butting a police officer to larceny this year has been released from custody on October 10th for reportedly assaulting a cop yet again after having been arrested just three days earlier.
— New York Post (@nypost) October 10, 2020
Angel Rivera may only be 18, but he’s already managed to accumulate numerous arrests this year. On June 3rd, Rivera was charged with menacing for threatening to shoot a man while reaching into his backpack simultaneously.
While it turns out Rivera didn’t have a gun in that incident, him allegedly saying “I will shoot you,” to another individual was what began an active summer of arrests for him.
Come July 22nd, Rivera was arrested for second-degree assault after having been spotted among a group of roughly 15 people that were blocking traffic at the intersection of Lafayette and Worth Streets.
When Rivera was among the group that refused to leave the intersection, he allegedly threw a “heavy object” at a police officer and then pushed one cop and kicked another while officers were trying to enact the arrest.
On that very same day when Rivera was arrested for the assault, he was also charged with larceny for allegedly using the credit card – that he was unauthorized to use – which belonged to a woman who had a court-issued order of protection against him.
Moving on to September 18th, Rivera was reportedly blocking traffic once again at LaGuardia Place and Washington Square South. Rivera was given a desk appearance ticket for resisting arrest, which during the arrest in question, Rivera allegedly head-butt one officer and kicked another.
Speaking to the New York Post, a senior law enforcement source stated the following about the case:
“It’s not like we’re not giving second chances, but there comes a point where enough is enough. I mean, he head-butted a cop, and we’re still giving second chances.”
And those “second chances” just keep rolling in.
On October 7th, Rivera was arrested under charges for criminal possession of a weapon, assault and resisting arrest. During that incident, police say that Rivera was involved in some sort of brawl taking place outside the 79th Precinct in Brooklyn.
Law enforcement sources say that Rivera had attacked police officers with a metal barrier and then punched an officer in the face when he was being arrested. That assault led to the officer having to check in to the Bellevue Hospital.
Speaking to the New York Post, another law enforcement source betrayed a sense of lacking faith in how “the administration” deals with individuals like Rivera:
“I guess the administration thinks it’s OK to keep releasing him. At this point we’re just working on hope, there is no plan.”
Rivera’s latest release was reportedly due to him bonding out, which the bond was set at $10,000.
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