UTICA, N.Y. (WUTR/WFXV/WPNY) – Wednesday night, we brought you Oneida County District Attorney, Scott McNamara’s, thoughts on a recent study regarding New York State’s, Discovery Law.
He now explains how it impacts other state legislation like Leandra’s Law.
Leandra’s Law – also known as the Child Passenger Protection Act – was enacted back in 2009.
The law makes it an automatic felony, after only the first offense, to drive under the influence with a child, under the age of 16, in the car.
But what DA Scott McNamara is trying to say is, while this law is important, the Discovery Law component that is tied to it is making it more difficult for prosecutors to do their jobs.
“So, for instance, when you have a Leandra’s Law case, we have to prove the age of the children in the car, even though it’s really apparent,” McNamara explained.
“Let’s say, for example, you have a baby in a car seat – most lay people would say, ‘Oh, that’s easy to prove,’ – no, we got to get a birth certificate for that child.”
“We’ve got to figure out, how are we gonna prove that child’s age? Well, we got to figure out where that child was born. Once again, we don’t have a crystal ball. We don’t know – was the child born in Utica? Was the child born in Rome or was the child born in Florida? We don’t know. That takes time.”
He goes on to explain that if the Discovery Law stated to have all related evidence submitted before trial, that would be realistic, but the way it’s written now is to the time of arraignment.
“If you make it tied to the time of trial, well, by the time we’re ready to go to trial, we’re going to have all those things or we can’t win the trial,” he said, “But we’re surely not going to have a birth certificate.”
He continued, “Like in this case if it’s a felony, we have six months to get it. But if it’s a misdemeanor, we don’t have six months, we got 90 days. And if we don’t get it in 90 days, game set match, it’s over. We lose just like that. It doesn’t matter.”
“Doesn’t matter how guilty the person is – lost on a technicality. And then people get mad and say, ‘Well, they got off on a technicality,’ well, I didn’t make the technicalities. And this law is just a field of landmines, of just technicalities.”
He adds that again, he doesn’t want the Discovery Law thrown out, he just wants to fine-tune it in a way that won’t affect the prosecution.
“Why don’t we go back to the drawing board and say, ‘What are the quirky little things that are denying our victim’s justice? Related should be changed to material, to the prosecution of the case,” he said, “You know, the time that it has to be turned over.”
“And not every single case is within 45 days of arraignment, or if the person’s in jail, it’s even a shorter period. Tie it to the time that the trial’s gonna take place, and then we’re not doing discovery on every single case.”
As McNamara said, he didn’t have a hand in passing the Discovery Law legislation, but the New York State Assembly and State Senate did.
So, I’ll be following up with Assemblywoman Buttenschon and Senator Griffo over the next few weeks to hear what they have to say about the Discovery Law, and how it can impact other pieces of state legislation.