If accused of a crime, there may be witnesses that claim they saw you committing the crime, in which case the prosecuting attorney often requests that the witness testify against you.
The prosecutor is required to inform the defendant of the evidence against them, but there was no time requirement, meaning the defense usually received the information shortly before trial.
Understanding the benefits and implications of the change
New York recently passed a new law requiring prosecutors to provide all evidence to the defense within 15 days of arraignment. The evidence could include witness information.
Fortunately, this may help the accused make a well-informed decision regarding their defense before heading to court. Often, defendants had to decide how they would plead without knowing what evidence the prosecution had.
On the other hand, prosecutors have expressed concern for witness safety. They are worried that witnesses will no longer come forward with information because they may be in danger. The legislation does have provisions which allow the judge to withhold information if there is a safety concern.
Will this legislation help defendants?
Overall, the new law may benefit those accused of a crime as they will be able to make a better-informed decision regarding their defense.
This new regulation will likely have the most significant impact on plea deals. Defendants will now be aware of the evidence against them before taking a plea bargain or choosing how to plead.
In addition to this legislation change, bail reform was implemented on January 1, 2020, which allows nonviolent offenders to be released, bail-free, while awaiting trial.
Judges cannot set bail for nonviolent felonies or misdemeanors. There are no exceptions, meaning a judge cannot use discretion, even if they believe the defendant is a threat to public safety.