(July 18, 2012)
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed legislation that will allow the creation of charitable organizations in New York State which could post up to $2,000 in bail for low-income defendants charged with misdemeanor crimes.
"It is unacceptable for defendants to have to spend time in jail for low-level crimes they may have not committed simply because they are unable to meet the bail requirement," Governor Cuomo said. "This law to allow the creation of not-for-profit charitable groups to cover the cost of bail for poor individuals held on a misdemeanor charge will help ensure that the state's justice system works for all defendants regardless of their income."
Before this legislation, organizations that desired to post bail on behalf of a defendant would have to meet the requirements of state law that are designed to regulate for-profit corporations engaged full-time in the bail bond business. The law will allow a new type of entity, charitable bail organizations, to function with fewer requirements but still under the oversight and regulation of the Department of Financial Services.
Charitable bond organizations will be allowed to provide no more than $2,000 in bail, and only for defendants charged with one or more misdemeanors who are financially unable to post bail. They will be required to register as a 501(c)(3) organization and may not charge a premium or fee for their services The law takes effect in 90 days.
Assembly Member Jeffrion Aubry said, "Justice should not depend on the size of your wallet. Charitable Bail Organizations could help thousands of New Yorkers who would otherwise languish in jails, often losing their jobs and facing long-term collateral consequences, just because they can’t afford a small amount of bail to fight their case. The inability to post bail on minor charges shouldn’t put low income people at a disadvantage in our justice system. Charitable Bail Organizations are an important step toward leveling the playing field."
Assembly Member Keith Wright said, “This common sense legislation helps level the playing field for low income individuals who are charged with misdemeanor crimes. For too long, our justice system has disproportionately impacted low income communities, leading to disruptions in the workplace and in the household. This legislation helps end that inequality. Governor Cuomo has made this type of pragmatic legislation a cornerstone of his administration and communities like Harlem will surely benefit from his wise decision to sign it into law,"
Assembly Member Hakeem Jeffries said, “The explosion in misdemeanor arrests over the last decade, especially for small quantities of marijuana, have put tens of thousands of New Yorkers behind bars -- many for the first time. As Governor Cuomo has said, that is something that state law needs to address. But until that happens, this law to ease meeting bail for low-income defendants arrested for misdemeanors is a step in the right direction. I thank Governor Cuomo for signing it, and I congratulate Senator Rivera and Assemblyman Aubry for their leadership.”
Assemblyman Karim Camara, said: "This is a very important piece of legislation signed by the Governor today. Too often, innocent individuals must deal with the consequences of a guilty plea because they cannot afford bail, one serious flaw in our criminal justice system. By allowing non-profits to post small amounts of bail for misdemeanor crimes we are giving individuals a chance to continue their lives while they pursue justice and not hastily plea to a crime and then deal with the ramifications. I commend the bill’s visionary sponsors, Assembly member Aubrey and Senator Rivera."
Senator Gustavo Rivera said, "I want to thank Governor Cuomo for working with Assembly Member Jeff Aubry and me to make the justice system fairer for working class people by making it legal for charitable organizations to post bail for those who cannot afford to do so themselves. Both in the Bronx and throughout New York, working people plead guilty to misdemeanors, despite their innocence, because they can't afford bail and are trying to avoid the devastating consequences that come with jail time while awaiting trial such as job loss, child custody issues or eviction. The alternative is just as bad or worse - an unwarranted conviction on their record. This law takes an important step toward leveling the playing field for working people and creating a more just bail system."