Some NY Legislators Trying to Soften Bail Reform Law

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A fight over New York state’s new bail law is roiling the early days of the legislative session as some Democrats, who last year enacted restrictions on the use of cash bail, now say they went too far, the Wall Street Journal reports. State Senate Republicans unsuccessfully tried last week to repeal the law, which forbids the use of cash bail for most misdemeanor and nonviolent felony offenses. It took effect Jan. 1. The GOP says the law puts criminals on the streets. Republicans have spread media accounts of people charged with severe crimes who were released pending their trial. More than a half dozen Democratic legislators, mostly from suburban areas, have introduced or voiced support for bills that amend the law.

Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein, a Democrat who represents Orthodox Jewish areas of Brooklyn, is sponsoring a bill that would let judges set bail for people charged with any level of hate crime. Eichenstein said the legislation was motivated by recent anti-Semitic attacks. Other measures would add sex offenses and drug sales to the list of offenses for which bail can be set. A bill by Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, a Democrat from Westchester, would let judges consider whether a criminal defendant is dangerous to the surrounding community. Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Democrat from Yonkers, reiterated that the law is designed to prevent economic discrimination in the criminal justice system. Progressive groups backing the new law plan to bring at least 100 people to the Capitol for a rally on Wednesday.

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