News Release

Nation’s Criminal Defense Bar Welcomes Criminal Justice Reforms Adopted by the State of New York

Washington, DC (Apr. 1, 2019) – On Sunday, March 31, Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Senate and Assembly reached agreement concerning multiple, significant pretrial criminal justice reforms as part of the state’s FY 2020 budget package. These changes will take effect in 2020. The reforms concern speedy access to trial, discovery in criminal cases, and bail and pretrial release.

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) has long advocated for reform in these areas. Indeed, as part of New Yorkers United for Justice, a coalition of numerous leading nonprofit organizations advocating for a more fair and humane criminal justice system in New York, NACDL and its state affiliate, the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NYSACDL), and others, have been working hard on the ground in recent months to help bring about meaningful improvements to New York’s criminal justice system.

“From the perspective of a criminal defense lawyer who has practiced in New York for several decades, I can confidently assert that this package of pretrial reforms is the most significant legislative reform of New York’s criminal justice system in generations,” said NACDL Executive Director and Chair of the Board of New Yorkers United for Justice Norman L. Reimer. “While welcome and commendable, it must be that this is just the beginning of criminal justice reform in New York. There is so much work left to be done – from achieving a more robust exercise of executive clemency power, to parole and probation reform, expungement of marijuana offenses, disclosure of law enforcement misconduct records, and more. It is my every hope that the package of reforms agreed to in New York yesterday marks the first stage in a transformation of the State of New York from being a national laggard to a national leader when it comes to criminal justice reform.”

NACDL President Drew Findling said: “The New York reforms are another milestone in the effort to fix the nation’s broken criminal justice system. I am proud of the work that NACDL and NYSACDL have done to support the reform effort – and I congratulate the entire New York criminal defense community.”

Under these newly-adopted provisions of the law, there will be several changes to pre-trial criminal procedure in New York. Cash bail will be eliminated for many misdemeanors and non-violent felonies, and police officers will be required to issue desk appearance tickets to most individuals charged with misdemeanors and Class E felonies. As a result, far fewer individuals charged but not convicted of an offense will languish in jail while presumed innocent simply because they are too poor to post bail.

The changes to the law will also have a significant impact upon the discovery process. Previously, New York was considered among the worst states in terms of access to evidence and information by the accused pre- trial. The new rules call for disclosure well before trial. Under the newly-adopted changes, individuals will also have the right to review information and evidence held by the prosecution no fewer than three days before the deadline to accept any plea offer, a significant improvement in the law.

Finally, as respects to ensuring the right to a speedy trial, a right that is often honored in the breach, these new changes provide for enhanced court oversight to move cases forward consistent with the timetables set forth in New York’s speedy trial provisions.

NACDL has long been engaged in the critically important work of pretrial justice, from its extensive work on discovery to its robust pretrial release advocacy.

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Ivan Dominguez, NACDL Senior Director of Public Affairs and Communications, (202) 465-7662 or

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.