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New York Lawmakers Want to Revamp Criminal Discovery Rules

January 31, 2019, on Criminal Defense Articles |

Anyone who is charged with a criminal offense in New York is looking at significant potential consequences, whether it’s a driving while intoxicated charge, fraud allegations or a violent crime. The good news is that cops and prosecutors have the burden at all times to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. That means going farther than just showing it’s more likely that not that you committed the crime.

Still, there are aspects of the criminal justice process that can make it harder to assert a defense. A pair of New York lawmakers are pushing to remove one of those barriers, the so-called “blindfold law” that allows prosecutors to withhold key information until right before a trial starts.

“This law prevents defendants from fully understanding the cases being brought against them, let alone mounting a fair defense against those charges,” State Sen. Jamaal Bailey and Assemblyman Joseph Lentol wrote in an op-ed for City & State.

How the Blindfold Law Works

In most cases, both sides have to turn over relevant information documents to each other before the trial begins. This process—known as “discovery” in the legal world—is meant to ensure fairness in the legal system.

The blindfold law, however, generally gives prosecutors the right to sit on vital information in a criminal case, including witness statements, police reports and grand jury proceedings. They don’t have to supply that info to the defense until just before trial begins. That clearly puts anyone charged with a crime at a disadvantage, because he or she (and their lawyers) don’t have adequate time to prepare or trial with all of the relevant information in front of them.

New York is one of only 10 states with blindfold laws on the books. For now.

Bailey and Lentol are the sponsors of legislation that would kill the blindfold law. The effort has attracted the support of the New York State Bar Association, Legal Aid Society and the Innocence Project. But it’s still not clear where Gov. Andrew Cuomo stands on the issue.

Talk With an Experienced Albany Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime in the Capital District, it is vital to seek the advice of an experienced Albany criminal defense lawyer. A lawyer can help you weigh your options and start building the strongest possible defense, in some cases before you’ve even been charged with a crime.

James E. Tyner is an experienced attorney who has been representing clients in a wide range of criminal cases for more than a decade. Mr. Tyner has a strong track record of getting optimal results for the people that he represents. He is happy to serve clients in Albany, Schenectady, Latham and throughout the state. Contact us online or call 1-866-715-4396 to schedule a free consultation.

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