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Bail Reform Act Major Change to NJ Criminal Justice System

N.J. Rethinks Bail – Who Gets Out, Who Stays Jailed

Originally by Maddie Hanna via Trenton Bureau

“As of Sunday, suspects arrested in New Jersey will no longer face the prospect of being stuck in jail solely because they can’t make bail.

But some accused offenders will no longer have any chance of being released before trial, under sweeping changes now in place throughout the state.

The bail-reform package that Gov. Christie and state lawmakers partnered to pass in 2014 – a portion of which voters approved with a ballot question that year – is finally in effect, though concerns about its costs haven’t been resolved.

Instead of getting cash bail set by judges, defendants now will be subject to an analytic tool assessing their criminal histories that will help determine whether they should be released or jailed pretrial. Prosecutors will have to argue if they want a defendant to be held beyond an initial commitment.”

The Bail Reform Act is a major change to the NJ Criminal Justice System. The good news is that a huge number of defendants who could not afford to post bail pending trial under the old system now are being released pending trial without having to post bail. The bad news is that all defendants arrested must now be detained in County Jail for up to 48 hours before a Judge determines if they can be released. Previously, a defendant who could afford bail could post it immediately at the police station and never set foot into the police station. Detention for any period in County Jail is very traumatic, so that is a huge shock to the system for a lot of first-time offenders. It is crucial therefore that family or friends of any person arrested contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately to navigate this brand-new playing field. – Criminal Law Attorney Tim Farrow

NJ Bail Reform Act

“Previously, judges in New Jersey could not order defendants held without bail.

Those defendants who are jailed will be released if new deadlines aren’t met: Prosecutors have 90 days to indict a defendant. A trial must then be scheduled in 180 days.

In a 2013 study of the New Jersey jail population in October 2012, inmates awaiting trial post-indictment had been held an average of 314 days, according to the state Attorney General’s Office.

Officials say the speedy-trial deadlines could require more work by the judiciary. Lawmakers recently sent Christie a bill that would add 20 Superior Court judgeships, expansion supporters say is needed to carry out the law’s requirements.

“What you’re really talking about is, do the time constraints create additional demands on the system?” Glenn Grant, acting administrative director of the New Jersey courts, said in a recent interview.

“I would argue yes,” he said, although “we need more empirical data.”

Arguing that the law will cost them tens of millions of dollars, New Jersey counties are trying to stop the changes, although they didn’t succeed in getting an injunction before Sunday.

In addition to hiring more staff, counties say, they have to pay staff for more hours and make capital improvements. The law requires that risk assessments be completed within 48 hours of a defendant’s commitment to jail, meaning county facilities will have to be open on weekends, according to the New Jersey Association of Counties.”