Gavel on top of cash, signifying bail and discovery.

Recent Changes to Discovery and Bail Laws in New York

By David Hammond

In 2019, New York lawmakers made it a priority to improve the state’s laws regarding bail and discovery. The changes brought about as a result of these efforts went into effect on January 1, 2020. The new bail law resulted in the expansion of pretrial freedom as well as significantly lowered the number of pretrial incarcerations across New York. The new discovery law grants those accused of crimes the ability to make better-informed decisions regarding their case and what evidence has been gathered against them.

The Changes to Discovery and Bail Laws in New York

The new discovery and bail laws passed in New York brought about some major changes to the State’s criminal justice system. One such major change is the fact that the new law mandates pretrial release without requiring money bail for those people charged with a qualifying offense. Prior to the new law, money bail could be required in any misdemeanor or felony case. But now, those charged with a qualifying offense, which includes most misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies, are required to be released without bail being set. There are some exceptions to this, however. Even if charged with a qualifying offense, the accused may be required to pay bail if he or she has a history of willfully failing to appear in court, violating an order of protection, or has shown other disqualifying behavior.

The changes to New York’s bail laws also include the requirement that judges issue other easier forms of payment of bail in cases where bail can be set. Prior to the changes in the law, judges set cash bail, requiring the payment of the full bail amount upfront, or insurance bond, requiring the use of for-profit bail bond companies. Under the new law, bail must be issued as an unsecured bond or a partially secured bond. These types of bonds are paid directly to the court. This means that the use of private insurance companies benefiting from the pretrial system is eliminated.

There were also major changes to New York’s discovery laws. In the past, those accused of crimes were kept from key information regarding their cases. This prevented them from making informed decisions about how to proceed with things such as evaluating plea deals. Under the new law, prosecutors are required to provide the accused with open file discovery. This must be done early on. In fact, prosecutors are required to provide the discovery within 15 days of arraignment. This time frame may be extended by 30 additional days if the discovery is exceptionally extensive or if the DA does not possess the requisite discovery materials despite good faith efforts. Additionally, prosecutors must give the accused full discovery before any plea offers are withdrawn.

New York Criminal Defense Attorneys

The changes to New York’s bail and discovery laws are much needed and long-awaited. Despite these changes, however, those accused of crimes in New York can very much feel like the system is stacked against them. Secure trusted criminal defense counsel with the experienced attorneys at CDH Law. We are here to defend our clients against any criminal charge they may face. Contact us today.


About the Author
David is a former military prosecutor and defense lawyer with over a decade of experience fighting for service members and their families. He served nine years and two combat tours as an active duty US Army officer, then joined the Reserves and settled down in Syracuse to be near family. Now representing people across Central New York charged with serious felonies, misdemeanors, DWIs, and traffic offenses, he puts the same level of commitment into his civilian law practice. If you have any questions regarding this article, you can contact David here.