When someone is charged with a crime in New York, there are many things working against them. While a solid criminal defense strategy can help the accused significantly, there are still many things that can be done to protect them from injustice. Governor Andrew Cuomo is working to reform the criminal justice system in New York with a number of proposed changes.
One of Cuomo's goals is to change New York's "blindfold law." This law allows prosecutors to withhold evidence against the accused, as well as witness names and statements, grand-jury testimony and other discovery until just before the trial. Because most felony convictions in New York occur through a guilty plea, defendants often plead guilty without knowing the evidence against them.
This is a huge advantage for prosecutors. Cuomo plans to introduce new legislation which forces prosecutors to turn over evidence in stages over the course of the three months that follow a defendant's arraignment. If a defendant knows the evidence available against them, they will be able to make an educated decision as to whether to sign a plea deal.
In addition to these changes, Cuomo is also focused on protecting witness safety, eliminating cash bail for misdemeanors and non-violent felonies, and making the trial process faster. Speeding up the process is particularly important, as many criminal defendants are forced to spend months, and even years, in jail while waiting for their case to be heard.
If Cuomo's changes are implemented over the next few years, criminal defendants will be more likely to get a fair day in court. With the help of their criminal defense attorneys, they may be able to lessen the severity of the consequences they face or have their charges completely dropped.
Source: VICE, "How New York Could Change the Game for Criminal Defendants," Beth Schwartzapfel, Jan. 4, 2018