In a move to help cash-strapped defendants and taxpayers, Westchester prosecutors have stopped seeking bail in most misdemeanor criminal cases.
Westchester County District Attorney Anthony Scarpino Jr., announced the effort, which is already in effect, as a way to “promote fairness and end unnecessary incarceration for impoverished defendants,” his office said in a press release Monday.
Judges have the sole authority to set bail in criminal cases, but bail recommendations by prosecutors typically weigh heavily in the judge’s final decision.
Scarpino’s policy has exceptions for more serious cases and follows Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s push for legislation eliminating bail for misdemeanor and nonviolent felony charges, the DA’s Office said.
Prior to this initiative, Scarpino said, too many defendants who posed no risk to public safety had been locked up simply because they could not afford to post bail while they awaited trial.
“This outdated practice is discriminatory,” he said.
“No one should languish in jail for a minor offense because of his or her inability to post bail,” he added. “In most cases, these defendants are not dangerous and have not even been found guilty of a crime. It is unjust and a tremendous waste of taxpayer dollars.”
The policy does not include cases involving a victim, such as domestic violence, sex crimes, child abuse, elder abuse and assault cases. Other exceptions include cases that involve the following:
- An injured police officer, firefighter, EMT or other first responder, or a violent resisting of an arrest.
- A prior felony conviction within the past 10 years.
- A prior sex crime conviction, including felonies and misdemeanors.
- A pending felony case or multiple pending misdemeanor cases.
- A defendant who is on parole, probation or supervised release.
- Prior bail jumping charges or a history of warrants.