Proposed bill protects all first responders under new discovery laws

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The new criminal justice reform laws in New York State have some lawmakers scrambling to create new protections for all first responders.

Under the state’s new criminal justice reform law, the prosecution must provide the defense with discovery within 15 days of an arraignment. That includes witness information.

While law enforcement members are exempt from the law, other first responders such as firefighters and EMTs are not. Senator Jim Tedisco says that could put them and their families at risk of retribution.

“In many of these instances, these perpetrators are criminals who have committed very serious crimes,” he said. “People like MS-13 gang members.”

His new bill would add them to the exemption.

“When these individuals get there and they’re dealing with the injured people at a crime scene, they become witnesses, they become the first responders whose name and addresses have to be released,” Tedisco explained.

But in December 2019, at a media briefing, supporters of the criminal justice reforms said the law had “incredible intent toward witness safety.”

“The judge can make a determination that witness information goes only to the defense attorney and not to the defendant,” Erin George, of Citizen Action New York, said. “And and order of protection can be put into place so that information that they feel may threaten safety is not turned over.”

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