Mark M. Cheser 35 Years of Criminal Defense Experience
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Bail in New Jersey doesn't always hinge on cash

Defendants charged with crimes in New Jersey were required to post bail to insure their return to Court in order to be released. The bail was set by a Judge and was posted in cash or bond (less serious crimes having a 10% option in cash). The bail was posted either personally or by a bondsman who would normally charge 10% of the bond as a fee. This system created inequities since indigent defendants could be held on relatively minor charges for long periods while dangerous criminals with resources would be released.

The New System

The people of NJ voted to amend the NJ Constitution to do away with bail. Under the new system the police charge offenses with either a summons or a warrant. If charged on a warrant the suspect is held from 24 to 48 hours before appearing before a Judge on a preliminary detention hearing. Based on a 1-6 evaluation on two separate issues, the likelihood of return to court and the nature of the offense with prior history, the Judge can release or detain. A 1-1 is the best evaluation, a 6-6 is the worst. The State can also demand detention. If detention is ruled or requested, a full hearing must be held within 7 days. The person is either released with conditions (one of which could be bail) or detained pending trial. If detained the person must be indicted in 90 days and tried within 180 days more or the person must be released.

Under fire

The new bail system is under fire by the bail bond industry, as well as some private citizens. These concerns have led to two lawsuits aimed at stopping the bail reform system. While the bail bond industry is likely trying to address the loss of profit in New Jersey, victims' family members are more concerned about the possibility of new crimes being committed by people released on the new condition system. The new system rectified inequities in the old system but has created new inequities. Now good people charged with serious crimes cannot get out on bail and must sit pending trial. One glaring problem is with domestic violence defendants. The AG has directed such cases be charged on a warrant. Defendants who were released ROR under the old system must be held at least 24 hours under the new system.

It has therefore became extremely important to have an attorney as quickly as possible once charged. The attorney can try to put positive information before the detention hearing Court and contest errors by Pre-Trial Services that create packages on the defendant for the Judge. Also discovery such as reports and eye witness statements can be reviewed for accuracy and contested.

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