New Jersey Bail Reform to Take Effect in January 2017

Published: Jan 05, 2017 in Criminal Defense

On January 1, 2017, a sweeping bail reform law took effect in New Jersey. According to the New Jersey Judiciary’s Criminal Justice Reform Information Center, the new bail system is fairer to indigent defendants because it makes their ability to pay money for bail irrelevant to being held in jail before trial. The legislation package was signed into law by the Governor in 2014, and implementation was made possible by a ballot amendment to the state constitution that passed last November with over 61 percent of the vote.

If you are facing criminal charges in Jersey City, you need to speak with experienced Jersey City criminal defense lawyers from the very start of your case. You need an effective advocate by your side every step of the way, including during pre-trial procedures when a judge may decide to hold you in jail before your trial. Bhatt Law Group’s compassionate criminal defense attorneys have decades of experience advocating on behalf of defendants facing different kinds of charges.

Call us today at (201) 798-8000 for a free initial consultation regarding your case.

Data Supporting Bail Reform

According to the New Jersey Judiciary, under the former system requiring judges to set a dollar amount for bail, indigent defendants who pose little risk of danger or flight are held in jail for failing to pay even small amounts of bail. Twelve percent of the county jail population was in custody because they could not pay bail of $2,500 or less. However, defendants with ample resources are able to pay bail and be released even if they posed a serious risk of danger to the public or flight.

Under the new bail reform act, judges are required to assess the level of risk each defendant poses and place conditions of release using an objective risk-assessment tool. Factors that judges will have to consider include the defendant’s age, prior convictions for violent offenses, pending charges, prior failures to appear before court, and prior sentences. New Jersey Courts will then classify defendants as low, moderate, or high risk and may be released without regard for ability to pay bail. The court’s pretrial services staff will complete these risk assessments so that a judge can set conditions of release within 48 hours of arrest. These pretrial services staff will also monitor defendants on release based on the results of their risk assessments.

If a defendant poses a serious risk of flight or danger to the public, a judge will be able to order those defendants to be held without bail. Violent crimes that require defendants to be held in jail before trial include murder, manslaughter, assault, sexual assault, robbery, and carjacking.

Speedy Trial Provisions

The new law also puts in place provisions to increase the speed in which the criminal justice system operates. Once a defendant is charged, they can only be held in jail for up to 48 hours before the first appearance in court. At that time, if prosecutors want to detain the individual before trial, the judge can decide to do so or release the defendant under certain conditions. For a judge to order detention, prosecutors have to provide clear and convincing evidence that there are no conditions of release that can reasonably assure that the defendant will appear in court, protect the public, or that the defendant will not try to obstruct the criminal justice process. If a judge orders pretrial detention, then the new law generally requires that the individual be indicted within 90 days then tried within 180 days of indictment, with certain provisions for extensions.

Experienced Jersey City Criminal Defense Attorneys

The sweeping bail reforms are now in place in New Jersey. A knowledgeable criminal defense attorney can help you understand your rights and the required procedures under the new system. Bhatt Law Group has attorneys with decades of combined experience in every aspect of criminal law and procedures, including the pre-trial phase, trial, and sentencing.

If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges, contact Bhatt Law Group at (201) 798-8000 for a free consultation.