Justice Denied in the Bronx

, New York Law Journal

   | 1 Comments

Where there is no realistic or meaningful opportunity to demand a trial—in a system where a person may wait over three years for a trial on a low-level misdemeanor and lose a job in the process—the constitutional underpinnings of plea-bargaining collapse. It is a punishment system, not a trial system.

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What's being said

  • Greg Antollino

    This, in my opinon, is correct. I am a decently experienced criminal defense lawyer who has seen this up front. In the 90‘s, I got every misdemeanor for a client not in lockup dismissed on 30.30, the state‘s speedy-trial statute. Morgenthau didn‘t really care about misdemeanor trials, but Vance pushing them a bit. The prosecution must be "ready" for trial - a mere statement - within 90 days. If a courtroom is unavailable, it doesn‘t count against 30.30. I found no longer concentrate in criminal defense, but a couple of years ago, a young acquaintance of mine was arrested, and has been held in lockup because he burned some garbage in his apartment and was charged with attempted arson. He could get out with $5000, but can‘t afford it. The case is equivocal. He exercised poor judgment, but refuses to take a plea for a stupid mistake that hurt no one; he has no record and the collateral consequences to a conviction are immense. I do not blame anyone who wants to stay in jail before receiving a conviction. See Michelle Alezander, "The New Jim Crow." An arrest alone can have collateral consequences, even though they are not supposed to; some states don‘t have expungement, and some jobs require disclosure of arrests. Because my friend won‘t take a deal, he‘s been sent for competency evaluations, twice - which also don‘t count against the prosecution under the speedy trial statute. Federal intervention is entirely necessary. Part of the problem is the quota arrest system. There is no question that precincts are judged by their "numbers," which mean numbers of arrests and that include highly questionable stops and the triumvarate of trumped up crimes and violations: Disorderly conduct (a panolply of acts that many of us could be said to commit every single day), obstruction of governmental administration, and resisting arrest. I‘ve seen complaints alleging resisting arrest with no underlying charge. One man was arrested for not having his children close to him in a park even though he was not in a playground area. Quality of life charges - some of which the DeBlasio administration reduced to civil violations - go to a special "Summons Part," where people are asked - without explanation - to waive their right to a criminal court judge, and the defendants appear before a JHO - a retired judge, usually, without a prosecutor. There is no prosecutor, and some JHO‘s believe that 30.30 doesn‘t apply to them. It‘s a collection part, pure and simple, and the JHO‘s know why they are there and how to keep their job.Anyway, if the police are encouraged to arrest en maase, force the legislature to come up with a solution, including perhaps (1) making the prosecution demonstrate "readiness" rather than simply stating it or, worse, filing a mere statement; (2) counting trial days against the prosecution if there are no parts available to try the cases; and (3) a recognition that fighting crime, which has dipped over the decades, is not demonstrated by the numbers of arrests. The police Compstat system equates complaints - about anything - with arrests - for anything. If you even out the apples and oranges, your precinct is deemed appropriate; if not, the commander gets publicly reamed out at the Compstat meetings. You can see it on Youtube. This system puts pressure on the cops to make more arrests and "keep their numbers up." It‘s no suprise that the largest City in the world can‘t keep up with trials demanded. I hope this lawsuit results in significant changes.

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