A prominent Huntington lawyer who has led cases as both a prosecutor and a defense attorney said Thursday that bail reform coming to New York State will provide balance to the justice system.
The New York State Legislature passed laws eliminating bail for most misdemeanors and non-violent felonies, with some exceptions. The laws will take effect in January.
John LoTurco, who served as a prosecutor handling narcotics and major crimes cases in the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office and now defends clients, said the point of the bail system is to ensure that someone who is charged with a crime comes back to court.
“I’ve complained about (bail) for years,” he said. “Often there’s higher bail on minorities than non- minorities and you’re dealing with implicit bias.”
Under the reform law, LoTurco said, “for 90 percent of arrests, we will not have bail.”
That doesn’t mean, though, that everyone arrested will be immediately turned loose, he said.
Those charged with sex offenses, domestic violence or DWI will be held, he said. In DWI cases, defendants would be held in police jail until arraignment but meanwhile, their licenses will be suspended. Those suspects aren’t held on bail but police won’t issue a Desk Appearance ticket to let them go free before arraignment.
Bail will be set for sex offenses.
And, he said, domestic violence cases aren’t necessarily classified as violent. But those arrested would not be issued a Desk Appearance Ticket, but would be brought before a judge, who would issue a stay-away order and the accused is prohibited from having any contact with the victim. “The law hasn’t changed,” he said.
“If you hear from bail bondsmen, it’s a horrible thing,” LoTurco said. “But it’s been happening across the country and it ‘s worked quite well,” citing New Jersey, North Carolina and California as among the states that have eased or eliminated bail requirements. “People have to remember that this is long overdue. Many states have similar bail reform and it’s working perfectly. We’re just catching up to other states.”
“Bail wasn’t meant to prevent future crime,” he said in response to those who fear an outbreak of crime by those awaiting trial. “Punishment comes at the finding of guilt.“
LoTurco, a partner in the firm Barket Epstein Kearon Aldea and LoTurco, is a Huntington native.
While with the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, he prosecuted more than 25 jury trials, with a 100% conviction rate.
He currently represents Christopher Loeb, who in 2012 was beaten by James Burke, then chief of department of the Suffolk County police. Burke pleaded guilty in the beating, went to prison and was freed last year.