Law lets charities post bail on misdemeanors
State Sen. Gustavo Rivera, a Bronx Democrat and sponsor, said innocent people will plead guilty when they can't afford bail, fearing consequences like losing jobs or child custody or eviction. The equally bad alternative is an unwarranted conviction, he said.
"This law takes an important step toward leveling the playing field for working people and creating a more just bail system," Rivera said.
The measure, which Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is expected to sign this week, would take effect in 90 days.
It would authorize registered charities to apply to the state Department of Financial Services, which regulates bail bond companies as insurers. They would pay $1,000 for a five-year certification, though the fee can be waived. They would not charge premiums or get paid.
Bail bond commercial premiums can range up to 10 percent for bonds up to $3,000, 8 percent for the balance up to $10,000 and 6 percent of bond amounts above that, according to the department.
"Justice should not depend on the size of your wallet," said Assemb. Jeffrion Aubry, a Queens Democrat and sponsor. "Charitable Bail Organizations could help thousands of New Yorkers who would otherwise languish in jails, often losing their jobs and facing long-term collateral consequences just because they can't afford a small amount of bail to fight their case."
Organizations would be able to post bail only in one county, except those based in New York City, which could operate in all five boroughs.
According to the lawmakers, their bill was based on a pilot project where the Bronx Freedom Fund was established and posted similar bails for three years. The result was 95 percent returned for every court date and half the cases were dismissed or otherwise resulted in no convictions.