As of January 1, 2017, New Jersey’s current bail have undergone some major changes, and anyone facing criminal charges, or under investigation for criminal activity, will need to understand how these changes could affect their chances of making bail, and how their bail amounts are determined.
The original bail system in the United States was enacted to ensure that defendants come back to court for their trials. Over time, the bail system evolved to protect the general public from potentially dangerous criminals. However, many states have found that the current system isn’t necessarily helping their law enforcement agencies and courts meet these purposes, and are instead causing more problems.
Because a defendant’s finances are only one factor that New Jersey courts consider when setting bail, many people are left without the opportunity to post the bail amount required to get them out of jail. This leaves lots of people behind bars as they wait for trial, because they cannot afford the amount of bail set by the judge. In many cases, the crimes committed are nonviolent offenses, and the accused is not a risk to the community at large.
However, some defendants who are accused of violent crimes can make bail, which allows them to return home while they wait for trial. Their alleged crimes may make them a risk to the community, but they are free to leave jail until their hearings because they are presumed to be innocent.
What’s Going to Change?
In an effort to cut down on the number of nonviolent accused criminals sitting behind bars while awaiting court appearances, New Jersey is one of a few states that has elected to move to a risk-based system for determining bail. Eligible defendants are now assessed based on the risk they pose to the community when courts determine the appropriate bail amount.
The risk assessment takes into account things like the likelihood that the defendant will be arrested again and the likelihood that he or she will commit a violent crime. It also weighs the likelihood that the defendant will show up again in court for future court appearances including trial.
Following the risk assessment, a defendant who is deemed to be low risk may be released on his or her own recognizance—meaning that he or she agrees to return for trial, and does not have to offer a monetary incentive—or released with non-monetary conditions set by a judge. An eligible low-risk defendant can also be released with a monetary bail to ensure his or her return, or a monetary bail with conditions set by a judge.
If a defendant is considered a danger or risk in any way, whether in flight, or danger to the community, he may be kept in detention. If this is the case, the defendant has certain protections, and detention can only be issued after a motion filed by the State, and a hearing on that motion.
For more information on New Jersey’s changing bail process, and how it could affect you, contact Scott Gorman, an Essex County leading expungement lawyer at The Gorman Law Firm. As our laws change, it’s more important than ever to discuss your options with an experienced attorney who can help build the best case for your defense.
Published in Categories: Expungment