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2019 Recap: 3 Important Law Changes in New York

Serving Families Throughout Garden City
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When it comes to laws, change is something that has the potential to impact just about everyone. The state of New York, specifically, saw some sweeping criminal justice reforms in 2019. Our criminal defense attorneys at Foley Griffin want to ensure that New York residents stay informed about their rights. Below, we discuss three major law changes that may have impacted New York residents.

1. Marijuana Decriminalization

While marijuana use is still federally illegal, 11 states and the District of Columbia have adopted expansive laws that legalize the substance for recreational use. Many other states, including New York, legally permit the use of medical marijuana.


This year, Governor Andrew Cuomo and other Democratic lawmakers pushed hard to completely legalize marijuana use in New York. While this did not pass, some legislative changes were made to marijuana-related criminal penalties. Marijuana use in New York was officially decriminalized in August 2019. Criminal penalties were also removed for possession of less than two ounces of marijuana.


The law also created a process where certain individuals with prior marijuana convictions could have their records cleared. The New York Times reported that about 160,000 people in New York would have low-level marijuana convictions expunged from their records due to this law change.

2. Elimination of Cash Bail

For those arrested or charged with a crime in New York, the odds that they may have to spend a night in jail just went down. The state of New York was one of the first states to eliminate cash bail and detention for certain misdemeanor and nonviolent felony arrests; the law goes into effect in January 2020.


One provision of the law requires police officers to issue appearance tickets for most low-level offenses. This means that people will be kept out of jail and will be able to move forward with their lives. Many advocates for criminal justice reform also say that this change will make the criminal justice system more fair for communities with higher poverty rates; in these areas, many individuals and their families do not have the financial means necessary to make bail.

3. Discovery Reform

For attorneys, an essential part of providing solid defense in court is knowing the evidence that will be used against an individual charged with a crime. This process just became a bit easier in New York, thanks to a discovery reform that passed in April 2019.


This bill essentially requires prosecutors to disclose their evidence to the defense earlier in case proceedings. Before the law passed, criminal defense attorneys had to make written “demands” in order to obtain and review evidence.


Now, new evidence is automatically made available to the defense. With this new “automatic” discovery, criminal defense attorneys will now have additional time to build solid and well-rounded defenses for individuals before their court dates. For those being arrested or charged with a crime, this could mean a more even playing field in court proceedings.


All of these changes have the potential to impact 1.) individuals charged with crimes in New York and 2.) the actual processes for how New York prosecutors pursue certain types of crimes. If you have any questions about how you may have been impacted by these changes, feel free to reach out to Foley Griffin for the answers you need.


If you have been arrested or charged with a crime in Nassau County, don’t forget that our criminal defense attorneys are here to help you during these difficult times. We will review your case and help you decide what your best options are moving forward.


Contact Foley Griffin at (888) 966-8480 to schedule your free consultation.

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