Prior to January 1, 2020, if a person was arrested in the state of New York for a physical assault with a domestic partner, they would experience a judicial arraignment. During this process, the judge would determine bail and set release requirements or order they remain detained until their trial. However, the new bail reform law, which went into effect on January 1, has significantly changed this process.

What New York’s new bail reform law states

Now, when an act of domestic violence takes place and the accused is charged with a misdemeanor or non-violent felony, they will be immediately released on their own recognizance without paying for bail. Only those accused of a violent felony will be required to pay money in order to be released on bail. However, judges do have the option to order electronic monitoring as a condition of release for anyone who is accused of a felony, was convicted of a felony the past five years, or was arrested for any domestic violence for sex offense misdemeanor.

There are only two situations, exclusive to domestic violence, where a misdemeanor or non-violent felony may not result in immediate release. If the accused has violated a current or prior temporary order of protection, or if they have a history of possessing or using a firearm, then the judge may reconsider immediate release and/or require a minimally restrictive condition(s), such as a supervised release, to help guarantee the accused appears in court. In addition, judges may still set bail for one of three reasons:

  1. the accused allegedly violated an order of protection and the protected party is in a domestic relationship
  2. sex offenses
  3. witness tampering or intimidation

What New York’s new bail reform law means for victims

Victims of domestic violence must understand that the person who attacked them will probably not be detained until their trial. It’s very likely that the alleged abuser will be free to return to their home hours after their arrest. This significant change can put victims in danger.

There are several important steps a victim should take immediately after their abuser is placed in handcuffs, regardless of how they are eventually charged.

  • Create a safety plan: Contact the local domestic violence organization to create a safety plan. For those living in Westchester County, My Sister’s Place serves lower Westchester and Hope’s Door serves northern Westchester. If you’re unsure of your local organization, reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline to find what resources are available near you.
  • File for a temporary order of protection. Your safety plan should include filing for a temporary order of protection at your local family court. Westchester residents can receive help creating their petition through the Pace Family Court Legal Program’s walk-in clinic at the White Plains and Yonkers courthouses.  If the judge approves your petition, the order of protection will make it illegal for the accused to contact you in any way and/or approach you in person.  It typically covers your children as well.
  • Identify safe places.  You should also determine what local people can provide you with protection and escape routes if the accused attempts to contact you. This might include you (and your children) staying at your local domestic violence shelter. They can provide a safe, temporary residence at an undisclosed location while you develop your long-term safety plans.

In conclusion

Domestic violence exists in every community, regardless of economic status, nationality, or race.  New York State’s new bail reform law was designed to provide the accused the opportunity to address their situation without the added burden of being incarcerated.  Unfortunately, this has created a loophole that provides the accused with an opportunity to potentially engage in another act of domestic violence soon after being arrested. Until this loophole is closed,  victims must practice due diligence to maintain their safety and guarantee adequate protection for them and their children.