Less than a year after New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed a series of soft-on-crime reform bills which radically changed the criminal justice system, she began rolling back these reforms. With things constantly changing, you may wonder if you still need a Rochester criminal defense lawyer. We’ll weigh in.
“We’re not here to undo the progress that was made in the past,” Hochul said from the Capitol. “But I also said we have to realize there are areas where improvements can and need to be made,” so “We are moving forward with a thoughtful approach,” she added.
Some reforms on the chopping block include changes to the juvenile justice system, such as closing a controversial loophole in the so-called Raise the Age law. Governor Hochul said the reforms would also keep potentially violent offenders behind bars longer and ease discovery deadlines for prosecutors.
The proposed rollback is “too little, too late,” remarked former NYPD detective and current professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice Joseph Giacalone. “The damage is done. There are too many politicians in New York that have gaslighted us for so long about the surge in violence.”
Well before the latest round of criminal justice reforms, the number of juvenile arrests in New York started plummeting. Now, when kids run afoul of the law, they rarely end up with police records. Criminal convictions are even rarer.
As a result, some people believe a juvenile arrest in New York is not a big deal. That’s simply not true. Although the law makes some accommodations, for the most part, the same criminal code that applies to adults also applies to juveniles.
As mentioned, most juvenile cases have a happy ending or at least a reasonably happy ending. However, these resolutions usually aren’t available for the asking. A Rochester criminal defense lawyer must stand up for juvenile rights.
On a related note, many people believe that juvenile criminal records are automatically sealed when the child turns 18. That’s true in a few cases. If the case is dismissed or otherwise ends favorably for the defendant, all law enforcement and judicial records are immediately sealed.
If a court places a juvenile defendant on probation or takes other adverse action, the defendant, or rather the defendant’s Rochester criminal defense lawyer, must petition the court for sealing. This relief is available if the defendant is at least 16 at the time of the petition.
Post-conviction seals only apply to judicial records. Any law enforcement records usually remain. Fortunately, most people, such as future employers, know there’s a big difference between a criminal charge and a criminal conviction.
Many were upset with New York’s radical bail reform, which ended pretrial detention for nonviolent offenders. Some offenses, like stalking and weapons possession, are technically nonviolent. Obviously, though, these situations could escalate and end very badly. So, the rules are changing, but the structure is basically the same.
Pretrial release is usually available for first-time, nonviolent offenders. The sheriff releases these individuals if they pay a small fee and promise to appear in court and comply with other bail conditions, such as reporting to a supervision officer. Attorneys advocate for prisoners in borderline situations, like semi-violent crimes or situations involving remote (older than ten years) criminal convictions.
Attorney advocacy is available in other areas as well. If the sheriff doesn’t set bail or the amount is too expensive, a Rochester criminal defense lawyer can appear for the defendant at a bail reduction hearing. At these hearings, judges consider a wide range of factors, not just the offense’s severity.
Very few things jumpstart a successful criminal defense better than prompt pretrial release. Especially in the coronavirus era, incarcerated defendants usually have limited contact with their lawyers. Additionally, when the cell doors open, the pressure is off defendants to accept unfavorable plea bargains just to get it over with.
The fact that prosecutors quit because they must follow the rules doesn’t bring us to tears. However, they have a point. Discovery in criminal cases should be fair to both sides. Since discovery is limited in criminal cases, defense attorneys must usually work harder and be creative.
In a personal injury case, evidence is usually easy to obtain. But in a criminal case, attorneys often partner with private investigators to find video surveillance evidence, additional witness testimony, and other potentially game-changing bits of evidence.
Additionally, many criminal cases include some non-criminal ancillary proceedings. DWIs are a good example. During an Administrative License Revocation hearing, the state must show its hand in front of a judge. If a lawyer represents the defendant at this hearing, the attorney knows exactly what’s coming at trial.
Get Help from a Dedicated Rochester Criminal Defense Lawyer
There’s a big difference between a criminal arrest and a criminal conviction. Contact the Law Office of Frank Ciardi for a free consultation with an experienced Rochester criminal defense attorney. We routinely handle matters in Monroe County and nearby jurisdictions.