There has been a great deal of new legislation and recent changes to existing laws, some of which caught many of us by surprise. The following is an overview of laws that are of direct concern for our courts. Check back regularly for updates regarding legislation. Please also check your email for updates from OCA as well.
Immediate changes involve:
- Bail Reform Law
- Decriminalize Marijuana
- Order to Counsel
- Penal Law
- Public Officer’s Law 72-B
- Summary Proceedings
Bail Reform Law, effective January 1, 2020, Defendants facing misdemeanor and certain non-violent felonies can be released without imposing any bail. Police agencies will be required to only issue appearance tickets in the vast majority of offenses. Additionally, Judges will only be allowed to set monetary bail on defendants charged with specified offenses.
Also part of the Bail Reform bill sets forth that Courts must notify defendants of any court appearances and the Court may utilize other methods of communication such as email and text. That does not affect a court requires that a defendant enter a plea in person or by mail or a written request for an adjournment.
Look for additional training on this issue as 2020 approaches.
Starting August 28, 2019, possessing less than 2 ounces of marijuana will be a violation. The new maximum fine for possession of less than 1 ounce will be $50, down from $150. Possession of more than 1 ounce but less than 2 ounces will have a maximum fine of $200, down from the previous max of $500.
What directly affects court clerks is that the new law also provides a provision to have all the people who are eligible to have their prior marijuana convictions expunged (meaning destroyed).
OCA is currently reviewing the bill and will address what new infrastructure will be necessary to comply with the statute.
Repeal of License Suspension Under VTL 510(2)(b)(v)
Effective immediately, the Court is no longer required to suspend the defendant's driver's license after a conviction for a misdemeanor under Article 220 (Controlled Substances Offenses) and Article 221 (Offenses involving Marijuana). Destroy MV-510D forms and remove it from the letter list in your courtroom program.
Driver's License Access & Privacy Act
Effective December 2019. This law also known as Green Light NY, waives the social security number required to obtain an NY State driver's license. Courts may see a significant drop in unlicensed driving summons but will have more accurate identification information to tract motorists coming through the courts.
Failing to Pay Traffic Tickets or Failing to Appear in Court
There is also legislation in the NY Senate that would end the practice of suspending driver's licenses for failing to pay traffic tickets or failing to appear in court. That bill 5348 seems to have stalled and replaced by bill S2707 or
Traffic violations fair notice act introduced in the Senate Rules Committees that would require that appearance tickets contain language notifying the defendant of the maximum fine, surcharge, points and driver responsibility assessment. It would also require the (Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to send out two warning notices of suspension 30 days apart. This is just proposed legislation, it is not currently law but worth monitoring.
Just as a reminder, effective January 1, 2018 - Upon a written demand for discovery or when the Prosecutor waives the written demand, the Court is required to issue an order emphasizing the Prosecutor's and defense counsel obligations. More information and the
Order to Counsel in Criminal Cases form can be found on the home page of the NY. Courts website under Judges and clerks.
Modification to Penal Law 70.15
Effective immediately, the maximum jail sentence for a Class A Misdemeanor or Unclassified Misdemeanor is 364 days, not one year, and retroactively. Clerks should be aware that when issuing Certificates of Disposition or Conviction, any previously imposed sentence of one year must be noted as 364 days.
Certificate of Disposition
Clerks should download the most recent Certificate of Disposition form into their Court Room program.
Raising the Age
Raise the Age to include 17-year-olds. As of October 1, 2019, the Raise the Age legislation will apply to any defendant less than 18 years old at the time of the commission of the offense.
Public Officer's Law 72-B is amended by adding a new section that states in part that any public officer and that includes court personnel who discloses the contents of a sealed record to an unauthorized person shall be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor. Confidentially of court records is a matter that clerks must be keenly aware of especially in light of the fact that sealing laws are expanding with the introduction of the look back seal under CPL 160.59. This law takes effect immediately as of January 2019.
Effective on proceedings commencing on or after June 14, 2019. There are many changes to these laws. It may be helpful to have handy the OCA memo dated June 19th (marked for Court use only) for your Judges to use when reviewing any filings for Summary Proceedings.
Notice of Petition
Clerks should note that the service time of the Notice of Petition and Petition is now no less than 10 days and no more than 17 days when providing attorneys with information on hearing dates. Also, court records relating to evictions from foreclosed properties shall be sealed and deemed confidential.