DFS and DOS to Hold Public Listening Sessions Across the State to Gather Input from Community Members and Consumer Advocates.
Albany, NY - May 31, 2018 - Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a series of listening sessions to inform the public on the state's actions to protect consumers, crack down on unscrupulous activity in the bail bond industry, and raise the standards of integrity in the bail business. The State Department of Financial Services and the Department of State will hold public listening sessions in New York City, Western New York and Central New York to gather input from communities and advocates about concerning practices and how to combat abuses in the industry. In addition, the Governor is directing DFS to immediately conduct an investigation of the commercial bail bond industry. The recommendations from the listening sessions and findings from the DFS investigation will inform a state response, including possible enforcement actions and new regulations.
"Our antiquated criminal justice system has created a two-tiered process where freedom from jail depends purely on economic status, and as we work to right the scales of justice, these actions will crack down on predatory practices and protect New Yorkers from unscrupulous activity," Governor Cuomo said. "The Empire State has always served as a beacon of equality and social justice, and by combatting injustice in the bail bond industry, New York is once again showing the nation the way forward."
Reforming New York's antiquated bail system is a critical component of the Governor's comprehensive State of the State criminal justice agenda and New York's commitment to legislative bail system reform, including eliminating monetary bail for misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies. As long as money bail is part of the criminal justice system, there is a possibility for abuse, and the Governor is taking this immediate action to address predatory practices in the commercial bail bond industry.
The public listening sessions will take place on the following dates:
New York City
Monday, June 11, 2018, from 3-5 p.m.
NYS Department of Financial Services
One State Street Plaza, 6th Floor
New York, NY 10004
Western New York
Tuesday, June 19, 2018 from 3-5 p.m.
Buffalo & Erie County Public Library - Central Library
2nd Floor Central Meeting Room
1 Lafayette Square
Buffalo, NY 14203
Central New York
Wednesday, June 20, 2018 from 3-5 p.m.
Onondaga Community College
SRC Arena and Events Center, Otis Suite
4585 West Seneca Turnpike
Syracuse, NY 13215-4585
The listening sessions will explore consumer complaints, including fees and costs that bail agents charge, transparency and clear disclosure about these fees, and financial responsibilities and duties of bail agents who hold collateral. The sessions will also educate the public about current alternatives to commercial bail bonds, such as unsecured and partially secured bonds ordered by the court, that defendants and their attorneys can request if a judge chooses to set bail. If warranted, the state will formulate an enforcement response based on information gathered during the sessions about possible violations of current law.
In addition to licensing, DFS has supervisory and enforcement authority over bail sureties and agents operating in New York, for the protection of markets and consumers. DOS deals with consumer protection and education.
DFS issued guidance last year to bail surety companies and licensed bail agents in New York informing them that they must comply with the New York Insurance Law, as pronounced in a unanimous 2017 decision by the New York Court of Appeals in Gevorkyan v. Judelson. The decision relied in large part on the legal analysis provided in an amicus curiae brief by DFS and confirmed the Department's position that under New York Insurance Law, a bail surety company or bail agent shall not retain a premium paid for a bail bond when a defendant is not released from custody. The DFS guidance reminded bail agents and surety companies that they must promptly return to indemnitors all premiums and compensation paid for bail bonds for defendants who are not released from custody after a court does not accept the bail bond as the result of a bail sufficiency hearing.
State Department of Financial Services Superintendent Maria T. Vullo said, "DFS is proud to support the Governor's bail reform initiative and build upon the legal and regulatory reforms the Department has secured to improve our criminal justice system. Today's announcement opens another chapter in New York's efforts to ensure that all defendants, regardless of economic status, are provided the treatment and protection they deserve under the law."
New York Secretary of State Rossana Rosado said, "We are proud to support Governor Cuomo's comprehensive measures to bring fairness and equality to the issue of bail. As co-chair of the Governor's Council on Reentry, I have seen first-hand how economics can play an unwanted and harmful role in how we treat those in custody. We must inform the public about the bail process so they can protect themselves, and we must listen to those directly impacted so we can enact measures to end fraud, abuse and inequality in the system."