New Jersey Bail Reform – Major Changes Effective January 1, 2017
On January 1, 2017, substantial changes to the processing of criminal cases in New Jersey will go into effect. Although the changes made under New Jersey’s criminal law reform will affect almost all aspects of a New Jersey criminal case, the focus in particular will be on the following two areas of criminal law in New Jersey: (1) pretrial release and bail; and (2) the right to a speedy trial.
Pretrial Release and Bail
Under New Jersey’s current system, judges set a dollar amount of bail and low income defendants that pose little to no risk of flight are sometimes held in county jail due to the fact that they are unable to afford even modest bail amounts. In fact, one study showed that approximately 12% of New Jersey’s population in the county jail systems remained in custody due to the fact that they could not afford to post bail amounts of $2,500.00 or less. Of these defendants, more than two-thirds of them were minorities. On the other hand, under the current system, those individuals who are of higher income are able to financially afford to post even large bail amounts, and in turn be released, even if they pose a high risk or flight or danger.
Under the new system, however, New Jersey will shift to a system that focuses on setting monetary bail as a condition of release to a more objective risk-based system. The intent is to create a more fair system, which is unrelated to an individual’s financial ability to post bail. Using the new system, judges will be responsible for assessing the objective level of risk that each defendant poses with respect to setting conditions of release. In doing so, they will use a risk-assessment tool, which the State of New Jersey assures has been tested with data from thousands of actual cases.
In determining the conditions surrounding release, judges will consider factors such as the defendant’s age, criminal history, prior failures to appear, and any other pending criminal charges. The judge will then classify the defendant as low, moderate, or high risk and may be released from incarceration on conditions without having to post monetary bail. For low risk, non-violent offenders who are not at risk of flight, they may be ordered to be released without posting bail. On the other hand, for high risk, violent offenders who are at risk of flight, judges will be able to order those defendants to be held without bail.
Those defendants who are released before trial will be monitored by a pretrial services staff. The pretrial services staff will be tasked with completing risk assessments of defendants within 48 hours of their arrest, sot that the judge can set release conditions.
New Jersey’s criminal justice system is based on two separate but related principles. The first is that those individuals who are accused of a criminal are innocent until they are proven guilty; the second is that those individuals who are accused of a crime have a right to a speedy trial. With respect to the right to a speedy trial, the criminal law reform will set limits on the amount of time a defendant can remain detained before trial.
Those defendants who are incarcerated before trial or who are unable to post bail will be subject to the speedy trial provisions. In general, defendants must be indicted within 90 days after arrest and tried within 180 days of indictment. Extensions of these time periods may be granted, but only for specific reasons such as the filing of a pretrial motion, plea negotiations, or the consent of the parties. If these time periods are not satisfied, the defendant may be released from incarceration or subject to other conditions.
The criminal defense attorneys at theWolf Law represent adult and juvenile criminal defendants in all state and federal courts in New Jersey. If you or your loved one is charged with a criminal offense in New Jersey contact us today at 732-741-4448 for a free consultation.