Bill would allow plea bargaining by Troopers

New York State Sen. John Bonacic has sponsored legislation in the Senate that would allow Troopers to continue to plea bargain traffic tickets despite a short-sighted plan from State Police leaders that tells Troopers they can’t. The PBA applauds Sen. Bonacic for his understanding of the hardships this State Police directive would place on public safety and on District Attorneys’ offices across the state. The Times Herald-Record newspaper of Middletown featured a story about this legislation in the April 21 editions, which is included below.

April 21, 2006

Bill would protect plea bargains

By John Milgrim
Ottaway News Service

Albany – State troopers would be allowed to ignore a mandate from their bosses and continue the practice of plea bargaining traffic tickets in court under legislation introduced this week.

The legislation came as a pointed reaction to a new state police policy prohibiting troopers from reducing traffic tickets after Sept. 1. It also came in response to widespread outrage statewide from prosecutors, county officials and troopers over the decision by state police brass to end the decadeslong plea bargaining process.

"It’s just a bad idea," said Sen. John Bonacic, R-C-Mount Hope, who sponsored the bill in the Senate.

"This is a short-sighted scheme (by state police officials) to dump an unfunded mandate on the local taxpayers," said Dan DeFedericis, president of the New York State Troopers Police Benevolent Association.

In March, state police brass issued the decree that troopers would no longer appear in court to plea-bargain traffic tickets they issued. Instead, deals to be cut would be done through the local district attorney’s office.

State police Chief Counsel Glenn Valle argued the agency has always had a policy against troopers plea bargaining cases, but it hasn’t been enforced. He also called the plea bargaining practice unethical given that ticketed motorists end up having to strike deals with their accusers. DeFedericis said the state police’s motive was to reduce overtime costs for troopers who appear in court.

District attorneys across the state have said they don’t have the manpower to take on the additional caseload, and the state Association of Counties slammed the state police policy as an unfunded mandate.

"They are either going to have to put more prosecutors on or let some of the more serious work slide. And that’s unacceptable," Bonacic said.

Click here for a link to the web site of the Times Herald-Record newspaper