Westchester DA ends bail for non-violent misdemeanors

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Westchester's district attorney has announced that there will be no more bail for non-violent misdemeanors.

Officials say that the policy could prevent tens of thousands of people from spending time behind bars before they go to trial.

Toya Williams was arrested after being accused of shoplifting, and to her surprise she was released from custody without having to pay bail. Her release is the result of a new progressive policy by Westchester County District Attorney Anthony Scarpino, who instructed his prosecutors not to request bail for defendants accused of non-violent misdemeanors.

“It’s unfair for people to be held in custody for offenses when you're not going to be seeking jail time,” said Scarpino.

Scarpino joins district attorneys in Manhattan and Brooklyn who ended bail on misdemeanor cases, but he still has exclusions to his policy.

For instance, bail will still be required in cases involving victims where the defendant has recent prior felonies and/or sex crime convictions.

“There's other reasons why the nature of their offenses, their prior history, their lack of roots in the community, where you feel under the law they'd probably want to abscond, then its makes sense to ask for bail,” says Scarpino.

The new no bail policy could have a big impact in a county where tens of thousands of people are arrested every year. The district attorney says ending bail for misdemeanors could help reduce the inmate population at the county jail, but he doesn't believe there are many people being held there who can't afford their bail.

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