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New Jersey Bail Reform: Bail Bond Reductions

In the state of New Jersey, individuals could be held behind bars for months because they could not afford to post the necessary bond.  In fact, a recent study confirmed that 32 percent of those individuals held in jail were there based on an inability to raise the necessary bond monies and 12 percent were unable to come up with even $2,500 in bond money.

The New Jersey Superior Court defined bail as:

Bail is money or other security, such as a bail bond, provided to the court to obtain an adult defendant’s release from jail and ensure his/her appearances in court. Bail is not a fine or court fee. The purpose of bail is to ensure that a defendant attends all required court dates. If the defendant keeps all scheduled court dates, the court releases/returns bail at the conclusion of the case to the person who posted/paid it.”

Once a bail amount was set, either the defendant or the prosecutor could file a request to change the bail amount and the judge had the authority to change either the type or amount of the bond.  However, effective January 1, 2017, all of that changes and any individuals may be jailed without any possibility of posting bail or other legal recourse.

New Jersey Bail Reform

Historic bail reform is scheduled to take place in the state of New Jersey based on a recent amendment to the New Jersey Constitution.  Going forward, those charged may not be allowed to secure their release from jail pending trial.  Instead, the judge will conduct a risk assessment for each defendant, taking into consideration the following:

  • Likelihood of flight before trial
  • Possibility of new criminal activity taking place before trial
  • The obstruction of justice by way of threats or injury to victims, witnesses or jurors

A pilot of the bail reform program was conducted in 2016 in several counties, including Passaic County, with a statewide launch taking place on January 1, 2017.  As of that time, loved ones with a prior criminal record may be detained until the time of trial, which could be months or even years away. 

Practical Implications of the New Jersey Bail Reform

While it is clear that every defendant will need a good bail attorney immediately after being arrested, it is far too early to tell what obstacles will result from the January 1st bail reform.  Some of the possible pitfalls include:

  • Conditions: Once a judge makes a determination regarding the types of release conditions that apply, it will likely be difficult for a defendant to request a modification of those conditions.  Although the interlocutory appeal process will be made available to defendants, it is unclear whether or not judges will be inclined to modify any of the established conditions and, if detained, your loved one will remain jailed during the pendency of any such appeal.
  • Police Records: In the past, state police took several weeks to complete their reports that were only finalized after review by a supervisor.  With the initial hearings taking place in only 48 hours, it remains unclear what records will be provided and how a New Jersey bail bond lawyer will be allowed to access the necessary materials. 
  • Access to Defendants: If an individual is charged with a complaint warrant, it is necessary for the state to conduct the first hearing within 48 hours, resulting in weekend hearings.  Because some New Jersey jails do not currently have weekend visitor hours, it is unclear how or when bail attorneys will be allowed to interview their clients and prepare for the detention hearing.   To further complicate matters, some counties do not intend to conduct hearings other than on selected days of the week, making it difficult for them to comply with the 48-hour deadline.  This could require your loved one to remain in jail for an extended period of time.

Contact Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A. Right Away

Before 2017, an individual’s financial status played an important role in the early stages of a criminal case, allowing some defendants to go free while many poor defendants were held pending trial.  With the New Jersey bail reforms in place, the State is able to jail more people, which makes the skill and experience of your bail bond lawyer a very important aspect of your case.  The team at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A., is prepared to defend you at the initial detention hearing and during every aspect of your case.  Contact us today.

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