NYS Assembly: Who needs Presumption of Innocence, Anyway?
New York Assembly Passes Bill Attacking Presumption of Innocence
Dog owner group calls on elected Albany representatives to uphold state laws,challenges A3765 (Englebright) as direct violation of civil rights and misuse of public funds
Albany, NY, March 8, 2010: The Dog Federation of New York (DFNY) today expressed deep concern over the recent passage of Assemblyman Steven Englebright’s proposal to allow petitions for security bonds to be made by district attorneys on the public payroll when defendants are arraigned following allegations of cruelty to animals. Under existing state law, defendants unable to promptly post costly security bonds face immediate, permanent forfeiture of their animals to private impounding organizations before any action may be taken in their defense.
In direct contradiction to existing state law, A3765 requires district attorneys, charged with defending the interests of the people of the State of New York, to represent private, not for profit corporations (impounding organizations). Existing state law also prohibits district attorneys from acting in civil matters, such as the petitions for security bonds covered by Asy. Englebright’s bill.
“The members of the New York State Assembly have a duty to uphold the law, the Constitution of the State of New York and the U. S. Constitution, and to protect the civil rights of all its citizens. The presumption of innocence, regardless of the nature of allegations made against a defendant, is one of our most basic, most cherished values”, said Mahlon Goer, Dog Federation of New York spokesperson. “We’d like to see Assemblyman Englebright and the New York State legislature uphold the law. Defendants cannot be assessed high financial penalties or permanent loss of their animals—their personal property—before their trial even begins.”
Civil rights advocates also expressed concern that defendants relying on public defenders must appear in court without the benefit of legal counsel during security bond hearings. Public defenders cannot act in civil matters in New York.
Under Assemblyman Englebright’s A3765 defendants are required to cover the cost of maintaining valuable animals no longer in their custody, or permanently forfeit them to a private corporation. The private corporation is then free to either kill the animals or sell them off and retain the proceeds, in contradiction to New York State’s Criminal Procedure Law § 690.55 which clearly places the responsibility for maintaining seized property on publicly employed law enforcement personnel pending resolution of charges.
“We believe that all responsible owners of animals share a concern for the well being of pets and livestock, “ Goer continued. “Under the law, we are explicitly required to provide for their welfare and should be held accountable if we fail. However, our concerns cannot drive us to surrender the protection of our civil rights. We are innocent until proven guilty.”
S5479, the Senate companion bill to A3765 sponsored by Senator Jeffrey Klein, remains with the New York Senate Committee on Agriculture.
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