While it has yet to be made into law, a new bill passed by the New York State Assembly aims to bring a little more justice to the criminal court system. Under the new bill, prosecutors may bear a much larger amount of legal, and even personal, liability for misconduct than they currently do.
Should Gov. Andrew Cuomo sign it into law, the bill will add legal clout to those who were wrongfully convicted. It also would add incentives for prosecutors to pay closer attention to the evidence and the way that they present or withhold it.
For many wrongfully-convicted individuals, this bill is something they’ve hoped for for years. Under the current legal system, the tools available to hold prosecutors responsible for mishandling evidence are not as strong as they could be. Many suspects who faced erroneous charges over the last several decades endured years of unjust incarceration because of prosecutorial misconduct.
A new misconduct commission
The primary means of enforcing just prosecutions within the bill is the creation of a new commission with the purpose of providing greater oversight and more direct punishments for prosecutors accused of misconduct.
If the bill makes it to law, the new commission will look into accusations of misconduct by prosecutors and potentially issue punishments, including potentially removing a prosecutor from office.
It is worth noting, however, that this change may necessitate an amendment to the state constitution, which would possibly not make to the ballot until next year. Opponents of the new commission note that the state constitution says that prosecutors may receive reviews of their conduct and may ultimately be dismissed by the governor. Since the new commission would change the process of removing a prosecutor for misconduct, alterations to the state constitution may prove necessary.
Fighting for fair treatment is always worth the effort
No matter what kind of charges you might face, you want to know that the parties responsible for prosecuting you are not only concerned with securing convictions but also have sufficient respect for finding the truth in any given case. By strengthening the tools that defendants have to fight back against prosecutor misconduct, the state creates greater protections to all defendants. This could wind up leveling the playing field of justice a little bit more.
If you face criminal charges in New York, you must take the matter seriously and begin building your defense as soon as you possibly can. Protect your rights to ensure that you have as much time as possible to review the case against you — and keep the prosecution honest.