How Does The Current Bail System In New Jersey Work?
Prior to January 1, 2017, if you were arrested for a “crime” or other matter under a “warrant”, there would be a determination by the prosecutor’s office to “ROR”, otherwise known as release on your own recognizance, or for a financial amount to be set by the judge. This was often a rubber stamp of the prosecutor, who was often trying to appease a police officer acting under the heat of battle. The Judge could permit the defendant to post “10 %”. If the judge did not permit 10%, the defendant would have to go to a bail bondsman and post the same 10%. The difference, is that the bail bondsman would keep the 10% as a fee.
Take for example, a $70,000 bail. Whether the 10% went to either the court or bondsman, the defendant would have $7,000 less to afford counsel and often require the defendant to utilize the public defender. If the defendant could not post the bail, their defense would be hampered and many defendants would plead guilty just to get out of jail on probation.
How Long Do Individuals Currently Spend In Jail Awaiting Trial?
Under the traditional approach, defendants either came up with bail (many could not) or they remained in jail until their trial. It is estimated that 75% of inmates at County Jails are people who could not afford their bail and are waiting for trial. For non-violent low risk offenders this deprives them of having a role in their defense and puts tremendous pressure to plead guilty.
What Are Some Other Problems With The Current System?
The average person cannot afford both bail and an attorney. After you put down $10,000 for your $100,000.00 bail, what is left to hire a qualified defense counsel? As a result, many end up with the public defender and take up the limited resources for the indigent.
How Does The New Reform Shift The Qualitative Elements Of Bail From Money To Risk?
Under the new system, all defendants are held in jail for 48 hours until a risk assessment hearing can be held. During that 48 hours, information on the defendant’s history is pulled together and they are assigned a risk score. The information can range from the inherent violence of the crime (murder vs shoplifting) and past attendance history with the law (missed court dates and running on bail). After the information is gathered a hearing is held and a determination is made to remand or release with conditions.
What Is The Alternative System Which Will Allow Low-Risk Defendants To Be Released? (Non-monetary bail)
For some non-violent and low-risk defendant’s there will be a release on one’s recognizance. For others, reporting obligations to the department of probation. For others ankle bracelets and house arrest.
When Does The New Legislation Go Into Effect?
January 1, 2017
Will It Affect Individuals Who Are Currently Incarcerated Awaiting Trial?
Yes. A new bail hearing can be requested. More importantly, a new speedy trial right attaches to those who remain in jail. 90 days from time of arrest to indictment and 180 days from time of indictment to time of trial. No more than two years for the entire process.
Will Municipal Court Judge, Municipal Court Administrators and Deputy Court Administrators Be Able To Run The Risk Assessment Known As the Public Safety Assessment (PSA) To Aid In The Determination of Whether a Complaint Summons or Complaint Warrant Will Be Issued?
Municipal Court Judges are not involved in the process. If a disorderly person’s offense is made on a warrant, the defendant goes to Superior Court for the risk assessment. The case will be handled by the county prosecutor and defense counsel (if there is one at that stage) or the public defender.
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