Now, at the same time that New York officials, and the Governor, are discussing scaling back the sweeping criminal justice reforms passed in 2020, there is a new battle about to be fought, this time dealing with the sentencing of convicted defendants. In last week’s editorial in the New York Law Journal, our very own Barry Kamins brilliantly details and discussed the potential ramifications of this reform bill.
To start, the provisions governing sentencing for criminal defendants is found in the New York State Penal Law, which was enacted over half a century ago. At the time, only two offenses carried a mandatory minimum sentence of imprisonment. Since then, legislation has been passed over the years to add to the number of offenses that carried a minimum jail sentence, including most violent felonies. However, in a recent survey of attorneys, judges, and even prosecutors across the country, mandatory minimum sentences have led to the decline of jury trials because of the increased power and leverage given to prosecutors, who can threaten vastly increased punishment upon those who assert their right to go to trial.
Now, State Senator Zellnor Myrie has introduced the Eliminate Mandatory Minimum Act,” which would drastically change the sentencing in the New York Penal Law. According to many, it would transfer the sentencing power away from prosecutors and towards judges. This seems obvious. Who better than the trial judge to determine the most appropriate sentence to be imposed. However, in the midst of bail and discovery reform backlash, it remains to be seen whether this sentencing reform bill will gain steam.
For more information or more fact-specific discussions, call our office and ask to speak with attorney Michael Jaccarino.