District attorney expresses concern over new bail, discovery rules

Cattaraugus County District Attorney Lori P. Rieman speaks to county lawmakers Wednesday about her concerns over new bail and discovery rules.

LITTLE VALLEY — Cattaraugus County District Attorney Lori P. Rieman told county lawmakers her office may struggle to meet new deadlines for discovery that go into effect Jan. 1.

Rieman updated county legislators on new discovery and bail regulation the State Legislature approved earlier this year as part of the budget agreement.

Pre-arraignment bail will be abolished for misdemeanors and some non-violent felonies, including drug sales, the district attorney said.

The inability for judges to set bail for felony charges, including domestic violence, terrorism offenses, incest offenses, witness intimidation or tampering, child sexual performance and luring a child is a serious concern, Rieman said.

Discovery, all items and information in the possession of any law enforcement agency, shall be assumed to be in possession of the prosecution, Rieman told legislators. The District Attorney’s Office will have 15 days to share discovery information with the defense. Previously, it was 45 days and went up to six months in some cases, she added.

Law enforcement officers need to provide to the DA discoverable records including body camera footage, defendant’s statements, witnesses names, police reports, notes, 911 recordings, interviews, expert testimony to be used at trial, full documentation of forensic evidence analysis and any known pending cases involving potential prosecution witnesses.

Rieman said new software made available to District Attorney Offices statewide will allow for the sharing of electronic police records that are being sought under a discovery motion.

“Our discovery will be paperless,” she said. Training for police departments will be done over the next few months.

There is concern that some local courts do not have internet access, Rieman said.

While the evolving discovery system is user friendly, it may result in some dismissals because deadlines were not met, she said. “Our big obligation is getting it up and running.”

She expects “some bumps in the road. There is no case law to guide us,” Rieman added.

The district attorney’s office isn’t the only one facing an uphill struggle to meet the state’s new bail and discovery rules. The Probation Department and Public Defender’s Office will also be affected. The county attorney’s office, which handles Family Court matters, will also be affected.

Rieman thinks some traffic tickets may not be enforceable under the new discovery rules which could lead to reduced revenue from fines.

She said some counties in the state have announced plans to stop prosecuting misdemeanor drug offenses.

“We will continue to prosecute them,” Rieman said. “My biggest concern is the drug dealers” as well as drug users, she added, noting that often when they have spent a few days in the county jail they are more likely to seek treatment for their addiction.

(Contact reporter Rick Miller at rmiller@oleantimesherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)