POUGHKEEPSIE − The New York Civil Liberties Union announced today it will ask the appeals court to expand a significant ruling in Dutchess County which found that setting unaffordable bail without considering the defendant’s ability to pay violates fundamental equal protection and due process rights. In January, Dutchess County Judge Maria Rosa ruled that judges must consider ability to pay and alternatives to cash bail. The NYCLU will ask the appeals court to further require that judges ask on the record about defendants’ ability to pay, explain their reasoning for setting bail amounts and explain, when they set unaffordable bail, why no alternative to incarceration would reasonably assure that the person would return to court.
Momentum for bail reform is growing across New York state. An analysis of data on bail practices around the state, released by NYCLU this week, demonstrated that tens of thousands of New Yorkers are locked up before trial simply because they could not pay bail.
“The purpose of bail is to ensure that people return to court, not punish those who cannot afford to pay for freedom. Clearly that has not been the reality in Dutchess County, where 71 percent of people in jail have not yet been to trial,” said Philip Desgranges, NYCLU senior staff attorney. “We need greater procedural protections to ensure that people are not jailed before their trials simply because they cannot pay bail. All New Yorkers deserve the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, not incarcerated before they can have their day in court.”