State lawmakers instituted sweeping changes to New York’s bail laws in 2019, limiting judges’ abilities to set bail or consider the risks a defendant posed if released. Although the laws were loosened last year, Montgomery County Legislator Robert Purtell, a Democrat, is advocating for judges to have greater discretion in deciding bail, believing that the current laws fail to address crimes impacting neighborhoods.
“We’ve tried bail reform,” Purtell told Fox News. “It’s not all bad. There’s certainly some equalizing factors in that, but it’s fallen short in identifying major crimes or crimes that affect neighborhoods.”
“When you don’t leave it to the judges to decide whether someone is a threat to our communities … of course, it’s going to affect crime,” the legislator said.
The resolution calls on the state legislature and Gov. Kathy Hochul to review New York’s bail reform laws, stating that limiting judges’ discretion results in “dangerous individuals being returned to the streets unnecessarily.” Purtell first floated the idea earlier in November, and the county legislature will consider it Tuesday.
Purtell offered an example of a bail reform shortcoming.
“If a single mother pilfers a pound of hamburger from a local supermarket to feed her family, I can understand that – she’s doing what she has to do and she’s no threat to the community,” Purtell told Fox News. “But if a drug dealer that’s poisoning our streets gets arrested at 8 o’clock in the morning and is back out on the streets at 2 o’clock in the afternoon because they aren’t eligible for bail, and the judge has no ability to use his own discretion, I think it’s a severe inequity.”
“Bail should not be construed as a punishment,” Purtell added. “It’s not a punishment.”
“That’s why we have the Constitution, which prohibits excessive bail,” he continued. “But the fact of the matter is the Constitution doesn’t require blinders either.”
The resolution will be sent to state lawmakers, including Hochul, if passed.