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In the News

Read top news headlines below. You may also read this month's press releases issued by the DA's office as well as releases from previous months and years.

courtroomCriminal justice reform took center stage this year as state lawmakers passed several measures aimed at ensuring greater fairness in our courts and throughout our criminal justice system. District Attorneys across New York State are brushing up on the new laws, which include bail and discovery reform, as they prepare to implement these measures when they go into effect January 2020. 

Bail Reform
New York is now the third state to end the use of cash bail as an incentive to return to court for people accused of low-level offenses.

Under the State’s new bail reform policy, cash bail will not be required for most defendants accused of misdemeanors and non-violent felonies including those arrested for drug possession, or even many property crimes like theft and burglary. Instead, the law will encourage alternatives such as supervision by a pretrial services agency, which exist in every county to assist defendants after their release.

Judges will still be able to set bail for those charged with qualifying offenses, including violent felonies, witness intimidation or tampering, or violating an order of protection against a member of the same household.

Discovery Reform
In addition, we are working with colleagues in the District Attorney’s Association of the State of New York (DAASNY) to implement the changes brought on by new laws affecting discovery in the trial process.

Before a trial begins, there's a period of time in which both parties exchange information about the facts of the case. This is called discovery. Among other things, the new law will expedite timing of discovery in all criminal cases; require early compilation and disclosure of a prosecution witness list; and mandate discovery prior to the entry of a guilty plea to a crime. In connection with the new more strenuous time obligations, prosecutors must be provided with “complete” law enforcement agency records and files upon request and take proactive measures to ensure adequate information flow.

Other justice reforms which became law in 2019 include:

Child Victims Act
The Child Victims Act was signed into law Feb. 14, 2019. The legislation ensures those who abuse children are held accountable criminally and civilly and that survivors of childhood sexual abuse have a path to justice. 

This legislation:

  • Extends New York's statute of limitations to allow for criminal charges against sexual abusers of children until their victims turn 28 years old for felony cases, up from the current 23
  • Allows victims to seek civil action against their abusers and institutions that enabled them until they turn 55
  • As of Aug. 14, 2019, opens up a one-year, one-time-only period to allow all victims to seek civil action, regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred

Red Flag Law
This common-sense gun safety measure goes into effect August 24, 2019, just as the new school year begins. The law, also known as the Extreme Risk Protection Order law, prevents individuals who show signs of being a threat to themselves or others from purchasing or possessing any kind of firearm. This is the first red-flag law in the country which empowers school personnel to report their concerns and seek a protection order based on a person’s actions. The law provides all necessary procedural safeguards to ensure that no firearm is removed without due process while ensuring that tragedies be prevented. New York is now one of 14 states with red-flag laws.

Marijuana Prosecution Reform Goes into Effect

Jan. 11, 2019 -- In a continuing effort to promote fairness in how crime is prosecuted, Westchester County District Attorney Anthony A. Scarpino, Jr. is implementing changes in the handling of low-level marijuana offenses in Westchester County. Under this new policy, the possession of small amounts (two ounces or less) of marijuana will no longer result in a criminal conviction negating the collateral damage such a conviction might impose.

 

The changes in prosecution of these current laws with take effect Monday, Jan. 14, 2019:
• Unlawful Possession of Marijuana (Penal Law § 221.05, a Violation)
• Criminal Possession of Marijuana in the Fifth Degree (Penal Law § 221.10, a Class B misdemeanor)

Specifically, the District Attorney’s Office will no longer prosecute (i) the violation offense in Penal Law §221.05, Unlawful Possession of Marijuana, and (ii) the B misdemeanor offense in Penal Law §221.10 (2), Criminal Possession of Marijuana in the Fifth Degree, based on the possession of an aggregate weight of more than 25 grams, provided the person is only charged with those offenses.

Regarding the second charge, the DA’s Office will prosecute the B misdemeanor offense in Penal Law §221.10 (1) only as a violation (under Penal Law §221.05 for the Unlawful Possession of Marijuana) when a person possesses, in a public place, burning or publicly viewable marijuana, provided the person is only charged with this offense. This will avoid the stigma of a criminal record for many of our young people with long-lasting negative consequences disproportionate to the minor nature of the offense.

The District Attorney’s review of the prosecution of lower level marijuana offenses is ongoing and further changes will be announced as they are adopted.

DA Scarpino said, “After a careful review of marijuana cases in Westchester, as well as discussions with police, community leaders and advocates, we have made the decision to change how we prosecute such offenses. This decision not to prosecute specific cases will allow many people to move forward with their lives without the stigma attached to criminal records of any kind, records that cause discrimination in housing, job and school applications. Much of this has burdened our minority communities and we believe it is time to rectify that.”

DA Scarpino added, “This change in how low-level marijuana cases are handled is also aimed at a better use of public resources. What has been spent on arrests and prosecutions can now be used to focus on more serious crimes.”

Listen to DA Scarpino explains the policy in this radio interview.

Beyond this decision, DA Scarpino is urging Governor Cuomo and state legislators to create a uniform approach to prosecuting marijuana offenses and end the disparity currently in place from county to county.

This progressive action by the DA’s Office follows bail reform, which was announced last year at this time. The DA’s Office no longer requests bail for defendants whose cases would not end in a sentence of incarceration, eliminating cash bail for most misdemeanors. The office found bail on non-violent low-level offenses where the defendant was not a flight risk weighed heavily on poorer defendants.

DA Scarpino said, “These reforms in the bail process and marijuana prosecution are illustrations of our commitment to a fairer system of justice that works for every member of our community, no matter where they live, the color of their skin or the amount in their wallets.”

The DA’s Office reserves the right to continue to prosecute all other marijuana-related offenses.

Sept. 6, 2018 -- White Plains, NY -- Westchester County District Attorney Anthony A. Scarpino, Jr. announced a new video series, “Why I Became a Prosecutor,” introducing some Westchester County Assistant District Attorneys. These prosecutors represent the people in the courtrooms of Westchester County from the village, town and municipal courts throughout the county to the Daronco Courthouse in White Plains and the New York State Court of Appeals. Their job is to advocate for justice on behalf of victims, whether they be individual victims of crime at any level or the taxpayers and voters of the county who may have been taken advantage of by public servants.

DA Scarpino said, “We are excited to introduce our dedicated Assistant District Attorneys to the residents of Westchester through this video series. I am proud of the work each of them do and how they bring their valuable life experiences, education and commitment to justice to our office and to the courts every day. In these videos, their passion for justice comes through. As several of the interviewees will tell you, they believe being a prosecutor is where they get to “do the right thing every day” and advocate for the victims they serve.”

Video Series
In each video interview of the “Why I Became a Prosecutor” series, you will hear from Assistant District Attorneys (also called prosecutors) of varied levels of experience, from a wide array of cultural backgrounds, and whose life experiences have contributed to their commitment to public service and prosecuting crime. Each one represents a different division, branch or bureau of the District Attorney’s Office.

The DA’s Office
With over 115 prosecutors of a total staff of over 200, DA Anthony Scarpino leads the largest district attorney’s office north of New York City. In addition to the main office in the Richard J. Daronco Westchester County Courthouse in White Plains, the District Attorney’s Office has eight local criminal court bureaus and branches serving the county in Yonkers, Mount Vernon, Greenburgh, White Plains, New Rochelle, Yorktown, Northern Westchester (located in Mount Kisco) and Rye.

See the first two videos today. These and future videos can be accessed through this Web site or on our Westchester District Attorney YouTube Channel. New videos will be posted periodically over the next few months. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter @WestchesterDA, or register for our monthly e-newsletter through our website home page for the latest news from the DA’s Office (WCDA).

Meet our ADAs

  • Meet Assistant District Attorney Shameika Mathurin, White Plains Branch Chief of the Westchester County District Attorney's Office. With 12 years serving as a prosecutor, ADA Mathurin has had a wide breadth of experience which she now brings to her leadership role as Branch Chief.
  • Meet Assistant District Adrian Murphy of the Investigations Division Identity Theft Unit of the Westchester County District Attorney's Office. ADA Murphy joined the DA's Office three years ago and is on the cutting edge of prosecuting identity theft.
  • Meet Assistant District Attorney Michelle Lopez, Chief of the Sex Crimes Bureau of the Westchester County District Attorney's Office. ADA Lopez has served as an advocate for victims and a role model in the community for more than 20 years.
  • Meet Assistant District Attorney Joyce Miller, Deputy Bureau Chief of the Domestic Violence and Child Abuse Bureaus of the Special Prosecutions Division of the Westchester County District Attorney's Office. ADA Miller has served as a prosecutor with the DA's Office for 12 years.
  • Meet Assistant District Attorney Raffaelina Gianfrancesco of the Appeals and Special Litigation Division of the Westchester County District Attorney's Office. ADA Gianfrancesco is a seasoned prosecutor who has been with the DA's Office for 10 years.