BLOG from our #ABKLaw Partner Michael Jaccarino, Esq.: COVID-19 and Defendants Rights in New York State
In New York City, three additional correction officers and at least eight inmates have tested positive for the COVID-19 pandemic. A doctor on Rikers Island has warned that “a storm is coming.” In related news, the 62 district attorneys across the State have called on the Governor to suspend discovery rules, speedy trial and grand jury timing requirements. If this happens, inmates incarcerated on Rikers Island and other facilities will have a greater than normal chance of getting exposed to the virus, all while having their right to a speedy trial stripped from them and leaving no end in sight to their incarceration.
While Mayor de Blasio has announced that he is taking measures to release certain inmates who are “vulnerable,” this is not enough. Defendants across the State should be asking Judges for a bail hearing and an order granting their release, or at least a decrease in their bail. Conditions of pretrial confinement create the ideal environment for the transmission of contagious disease. Inmates cycle in and out of pretrial facilities from all over the world and the country, and people who work in the facilities leave and return daily, without screening. Incarcerated people have poorer health than the general population, and even at the best of times, medical care is limited in federal pretrial detention centers and local state and city jails.
Courts are permitted to release an individual if release is necessary for preparation of the person’s defense or for another compelling reason. The circumstances that existed when each defendant was arrested and ordered detained has now changed. There is a pandemic that poses a direct risk to each inmate that is far greater if the inmate continues to be detained during this public health crisis. In these times, every defendant has a right to appear before a Judge and make this request and they should be hiring an experienced lawyer to represent them in such a proceeding.
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