On Jan. 1 of this year, New York’s new criminal discovery laws became effective. The new law, which was then amended in April, intended wholesale changes to the discovery practice, apparently reflecting legislative agreement with People v. Copicotto, 50 N.Y.2d 222, 226 (1980) that “broader pretrial discovery enables the defendant to make a more informed plea decision, minimizes the tactical and often unfair advantage to one side, and increases to some degree the opportunity for an accurate determination of guilt or innocence.” Sponsor’s Memo to Senate Bill S1716 of 1919. Memorandum in Support of A1431 of 1919.
Entirely replacing the former CPL article 240, the new CPL article 245 provides that significant, enumerated disclosures be made to the defense within specified time periods. Under the former regime discovery was generally delayed leaving defendants and their counsel largely in the dark until the eve of trial. Discovery under the new law is automatic and its timing is generally gauged from arraignment. Generally, substantial material must be provided within 15 to 45 days of a felony defendant’s arraignment on the indictment. CPL §245.10(1)(a). What the disclosures must include is set forth in CPL §245.20(1)(a) through (u). In addition, the new law makes the prosecutor responsible for any information held by “any New York state or local police or law enforcement agency.” CPL §245.20(2). While certain redactions are permitted, “[t]here shall be a presumption in favor of disclosure.” CPL §245.20(7).
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