Legislators in New Jersey are recommending that lawmakers take a closer look at the state’s bail regulations, and are promoting a new bill to make several key changes. If passed, the new measure would allow for stricter rules on bail for serious crimes, and options for holding some defendants without bail for certain other cases, lawyers at New Jersey law firm Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA report.
In an overwhelmingly positive 9-1-2 vote, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the new bill, which plans to make significant amendments to the state’s constitution, focusing on Art. 1, Para. 11. If passed, S-946 would amend this specific section to allow a judge to deny bail for persons charged with crimes that fall under the No Early Release Act, crimes that carry a maximum life sentence, crimes against minors, and any case in which the judge believes the defendant poses a flight risk, or may potentially obstruct justice in another way, including witness intimidation, threatening, and harm.
Although the bill intends to tighten the state’s existing bail requirements and allowances, it also arranges for release of defendants without posting bail, in cases where bail would be denied per the new amendment. Each county will establish a Pre-Trial Services Unit, and this unit will review pending cases and determine whether a defendant should be detained before his or her trial, or if release without any bail is acceptable.
The bill has seen a lot of support from legal channels throughout the state, law firms in New Jersey report, but its Democratic supporters, Sens. Donald Norcross, Peter Barnes, and Nicholas Scutari, say the bill cannot be enacted until several issues have been addressed. For starters, the state will need to allocate funds earmarked for the establishment of the Pre-Trial Services Units, and to cover the costs involved in detaining a defendant before the trial. Additionally, measures need to be taken to ensure that anyone held without bail will be given a speedy trial, to prevent defendants from spending several years in jail.
The Assembly Judiciary Committee has been trying to push through a similar bill to promote bail regulations and reform, A-1910, which is currently under review. Last month, the Supreme Court’s Joint Committee on Criminal Justice called for reform as well, recommending that judges be allowed to set bail or withhold it, based on an objective risk assessment.
The uncertainty of how best to handle the costs has a few members of the Senate Judiciary Committee voting against the measure, as well as questions about what happens when a defendant is released without having to post bail, but does not meet the pre-trial standards that they have been given.
Bail regulations govern our criminal justice system, and at Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, a New Jersey law firm, our attorneys keep up to date with pending laws and potential amendments that could change rules for people charged with criminal activity. If you need legal representation, or clarification on the changes that could affect the criminal bail system, contact an HCK attorney for a free, no-strings consultation today.