Law enforcement and local leaders continue call for bail reform changes

Dutchess County Sheriff Kirk Imperati speaking on bail reform.

POUGHKEEPSIE – Acting Dutchess County Sheriff Kirk Imperati and County Executive Marc Molinaro continued their plea for changes to the bail reform laws that, according to police, have handcuffed law enforcement and burdened the criminal justice system.


On Wednesday, members of several police agencies and elected officials joined Imperati in calling for adjustments to the cashless bail system including allowing judges more discretion and allowing them to set bail on offenses rather than issuing appearance tickets to offenders.


Imperati said the bail reform laws enacted by the supermajority Democrats in Albany have threatened public safety.  He pointed to a case where his office arrested a heroin dealer who is possibly responsible for some overdose deaths.  The suspect was charged with felony criminal possession but released because the law does not allow judges to consider a person’s danger to the community when setting bail.  “We support judges having discretion in allowing them to consider bail on anyone who is a danger to the community, and clearly, drug dealers are a danger to our community.” 


State Senator Sue Serino also wants judges to be able to consider a person’s danger to society if released.  “No one here believes that any New Yorker should be held behind bars simply because of the inability to pay but all of us believe that ensuring public safety is a fundamental function of government and it’s a function that the state is absolutely failing to perform,” she said.  The Hyde Park lawmaker said that the most dangerous time for victims of domestic violence is during the pre-trial stage.  “The victims are very vulnerable because their abuser is usually set free under the cashless bail system, giving the accused a chance to seek revenge.”


Dutchess County’s Chief Assistant District Attorney Matt Weishaupt said DAs across the state backed the early calls for bail reform but their recommendations were disregarded.  “We are not asking for a wholesale doing away with this.  We’re asking for sensible modifications to bring these laws in line with what we need to make the system work effectively.”  


Weishaupt’s plea for change was echoed by Molinaro who blamed Democratic state lawmakers for the problem.  “They created a system that forces judges to treat crimes like a menu with no consideration for the probability that the individual, if back in the community, will commit another crime.”

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