In New York State, the issue of bail has been a contentious topic for years, with advocates on both sides of the debate arguing for reforms to the system. Bail is the amount of money that a defendant is required to pay to be released from jail while awaiting trial. However, the bail system has been criticized for unfairly punishing low-income defendants who cannot afford to pay the amount set by the court. In 2019, New York State passed a landmark reform that eliminated cash bail for most misdemeanors and non-violent felonies. The new law also requires judges to consider a defendant’s ability to pay when setting bail and allows for alternative forms of release, such as electronic monitoring. In this article, Eastcoastlaws.com will explore the different forms, types, and amounts of bail in New York State and the impact of recent reforms on the criminal justice system.
Your arraignment attorney has a responsibility to make sure judges and prosecutors uphold the law, whether in a Justice Court of a Rockland County municipality, Westchester County Supreme Court Criminal Term, or New York City Criminal Court. Even though cash bail may not be as common as it once was, courts in New York can nonetheless impose restrictions on your release that will have an impact both now and in the future.
The hiring of a criminal defense lawyer for your arraignment who is knowledgeable about New York bail laws is essential to your defense both at your first appearance and throughout the criminal justice process. Simply knowing the statutes and regulations establishing the parameters for both non-monetary and monetary securing orders is not sufficient.
General Rules And Guidelines
If money, or bail, is necessary for your release, the court must permit at least two alternatives “payments” in addition to cash. A judge must let you post bail in one of three or more forms, and at least one of those types must be either an unsecured or partially secured surety bond, particularly under CPL 520.10(2)(b). Cash, insurance company bail, credit cards, and unsecured appearance bonds are a few of the many forms mentioned in CPL 520.10(1).
Breaking Down Bail And It Various Forms
The various ways you or another person can post bail and fulfill bond requirements are outlined and specified in CPL 500.10 in combination with CPL 520.10(1) as follows:
Any person can pay cash including you as a defendant or a friend or family member. In such situations, the entire amount is needed even if shared among multiple parties.
Any person can use a credit card assuming they are authorized to do so. Unlike cash, multiple credit cards are not permissible. It is worth noting that a clerk cannot charge you an administrative fee, but credit card companies would charge interest or other fees in the regular course of their business.
Secured Surety Bond
You or any party can post a secured security bond. The two options that satisfy this fully secured option are either personal property or real property. The former must at least be equal to the amount required by the court while the latter must be at least twice the amount of the bond.
Partially Secured Surety Bond
Once more, any party, including you as the defendant, may post a partially secured bail. The amount of money utilized to get this cannot be more than 10% of the bond’s total value. Upon the conclusion of the case, this fee or portion of the security is reimbursed.
Unsecured Surety Bond
A guarantor for an unsecured surety bond might be anyone. If you don’t come back, one or more people agree to take on the cost of the bond, but they are not obligated to give anything in exchange for the release of the car, including money or property. In essence, this is a pledge to cover the entire bond if required.
Secured Appearance Bond
Same as a secured surety bond but you sign off on this form.
Partially Secured Appearance Bond
Same as a partially secured surety bond but the monies come from you.
Unsecured Appearance Bond
Same as an unsecured security bond but you are the guarantor.
Non-Monetary Condition Of Release
As long as it is the least restrictive, courts may still set non-monetary terms of release that will not impact your finances nor be based on your ability to pay. Generally, if your attorney successfully argues both law and facts to secure your release with non-monetary conditions, CPL 510.40(5) stipulates that the court must place on the record the conditions you must adhere to as a guide for your conduct and the consequences of violating these terms. It must also do so in an “individualized written document.”
As a preliminary matter, a select group of defendants is eligible for electronic monitoring. If you are charged with a felony, “sex crime” misdemeanor codified in Penal Law Article 130, misdemeanor Domestic Violence crime, or any other misdemeanor where you have a conviction in the previous five (5) years for a statutorily defined violent crime pursuant to CPL 70.02, then you are eligible for electronic monitoring. CPL 500.10(21). Not only would you be physically out of custody with such a condition, but you would not be required to pay for this service. In determining whether the court should release you with this type of condition, a judge must determine that “…no other realistic non-monetary condition or set of non-monetary conditions will suffice to reasonably assure [your] return to court.” CPL 510.40(4)(a).
Electronic monitoring can be in place for no more than sixty (60) days without the court finding in writing and explaining on the record why it should be continued. Equally important, if you are monitored in such a manner you are deemed in custody for the purposes of CPL 180.80 and CPL 170.70 even though you are not incarcerated. Although your counsel will explain what this means, in its simplest form these statutes relate to when you must be released from physical custody if prosecutors fail to file an indictment or misdemeanor information respectively. CPL 510.40(4)(d).
Change Circumstances And Alteration Od Bail Or Supervisory Conditions
While a judge has both the authority and ability to change your release conditions, the law provides statutory guidelines for each of these potential modifications pursuant to CPL 530.60(2)(a) and CPL 530.60(2)(b). Importantly, before a judge makes this determination, your lawyer must protect and exercise your right to a bail revocation hearing where he or she must ensure the court finds reasonable cause to believe or clear and convincing evidence depending on the nature of the violation and offenses charged. Only if the court finds the evidence reaches these respective standards can new and more restrictive conditions be implemented.
Experience, activism, and familiarity with New York’s bail regulations and statutes are necessary to protect your rights in court and in the future. Only the most persuasive arguments will prevail in securing the least restrictive regulations and ensuring that judges and prosecutors uphold the law.