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Brooklyn Supreme Court to begin using electronic monitoring instead of bail

April 24, 2020 Rob Abruzzese
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The Kings County Supreme Court, Criminal Term, is finally getting a new tool to avoid cash bail. It began using electronic monitoring as a condition of release on Monday, April 20.

Chief Clerk Daniel Alessandrino issued the directive this week that outlines the program that defense attorneys can use as a condition of non-monetary release.

“Anything that offers additional bail options beyond incarceration is a welcome development,” said defense attorney Michael Farkas, a past president of the Kings County Criminal Bar Association. “Now we have to hope that the program can be expanded beyond the very limited current capacity.”

During criminal court arraignments, or any time a bail application is made, defense attorneys or prosecutors can ask for electronic monitoring as a condition of release. Currently, the program is not available for defendants charged with sex crimes or domestic violence. The program will be run through the NYC Sheriff’s Office.

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The sheriff, after a video interview with the defendant, and the Department of Correction will determine if a person is a suitable candidate for electronic monitoring. They will consider factors such as residency, whether or not a person has a reliable phone, open warrants, and access to electricity and technical proficiency to maintain the monitoring device.

The sheriff is also in charge of compliance and is expected to produce a summary report for judges, defense and prosecution. If there are any violations of orders, the sheriff will notify the judge, who will determine appropriate action.

This announcement comes less than a month after Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the State Legislature rolled back bail reform through the state budget. Initially, the bail reform was hailed as one of the most progressive in the country, however, after its implementation opponents blamed a spike in crime over a period of a few weeks on the reforms and calls from politicians, such as Mayor Bill de Blasio, began to intensify to roll back the reforms.

The bail reform roll back added some categories to the list of crimes in which judges are allowed to set bail on to include 15 more categories. It also allowed judges to impose new conditions on defendants pre-trial, like ordering them to surrender their passport, mandating they avoid contact with witnesses or victims of their alleged crimes, or ordering them to pretrial services for treatment or counseling.

Defense attorneys are not happy with the roll back, but many said that it could have been much worse.

“While I am glad that the more severe reversals sought by opponents of our historic criminal justice reform did not materialize, we all must remain concerned that the recent amendments to the bail and discovery laws are only the first steps towards greater rollbacks,” Farkas said. “The reforms have been critical to elevating fairness and due process in this state, as well as reducing the jail population. They cannot be allowed to further diminish.”

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