Governor Kathy Hochul rejected pushes by Mayor Eric Adams and conservative politicians to add a so-called “dangerousness standard” to the state’s bail laws Wednesday, saying judges should instead apply the laws she pushed through the state budget earlier this year.
The governor and the state legislature’s recent rollbacks of New York’s bail laws gave the courts the leeway they needed to ensure public safety, Hochul said Wednesday.
“Every one of those changes gives them the tools they need to work toward our common objective of increasing public safety,” Hochul told reporters during an unrelated press conference on Aug. 3.
“I’m not sure why everybody intentionally ignores this, but people are out there, you know, people trying to make political calculations based on this,” the governor added.
Her comments threw cold water on efforts by Mayor Adams to get Albany to tighten the state’s laws and allow judges to jail people accused of crimes if they consider them to be dangerous.
Nevertheless, Hochul contended that she and Adams are “in sync” on tackling crime, and blamed legal eagles for not implementing all the law changes that state politicians put on the books this spring.
“The mayor and I are in sync on this, I believe that the legislature — with my serious prodding — have made great strides, we’re not finished yet,” she said.
“There probably is a miscommunication and misperception that things have not changed,” she said. “This is the law of the land in the state of New York. There’s our full expectation that will be applied.”
“If there’s confusion that people don’t understand, I’m sure there’s continuing education programs that are out there, we can give more briefings to people, I’m happy to have our policy team work with you,” Hochul added.
Adams last week called on Hochul and state lawmakers to convene a special session in Albany on bail laws.
The governor and the legislature in April passed a set of rollbacks to the state’s contested 2019 bail reforms.
The three-year-old laws got rid of cash bail for a slate of criminal charges, aiming to undo over-incarceration of New Yorkers for low-level and non-violent offenses, but lawmakers have several times undone those changes in the following years.
While judges were previously supposed to set bail depending on the likelihood of a defendant returning to court, under the most recent changes they can now consider the severity of the crime and repeat offenses.
The changes also made more crimes eligible for arrest rather than just a ticket, including certain hate crimes, gun offenses, and violations of protection orders.
Hochul said the current law is more specific and less subjective.
“Tell me how you define dangerousness and how that differs from the list of specific criteria that we’re asking them to weigh. Is one subjective and one based on metrics? I think so, and I think the judges might want to just shift around and look at something that’s been handed to them,” she said.
She said that instead of pointing fingers, officials should collaborate to address crime.
“It all has to work together to not just reduce crime — which is going up all over the country, we know that, it is up everywhere, we are safer than many areas,” Hochul said. “But I’m not going to feel comfortable as long as people feel anxiety in this community.”
Mayor Adams claimed that they were “aligned,” but countered that judges needed more discretion than they have under current law.
“I think Governor Hochul and I are aligned on the public safety issues, we have been in total alignment on public safety is important,” the mayor said during a press conference at police headquarters Wednesday afternoon. “Her belief that the judges have the tools they need, yes they have tools that they need — they’re not using them. They need to use all of their tools, but they need additional tools in the process as well.”