In the beginning of 2017, New Jersey implemented a new bail system that differs significantly from earlier bail rules. Most people are familiar with the basic rules of traditional bail: a person charged with an offense puts up a sum of money for release until trial. The amount typically depends on the severity of the offense and the likelihood the defendant will flee.
New Jersey introduced its reforms in response to common complaints about the problems with the traditional way of posting bail. One outstanding issue is those people, often charged with minor offenses, who cannot afford bail and so remain incarcerated. For many, this results in job loss and other serious consequences.
The purpose of the reform
The reformed system aims to address this issue while retaining the key purpose of requiring bail in the first place: protecting the public from violent offenders while allowing nonviolent offenders to stay out of jail until their trial.
How it works
Under the current system, most defendants will not put up bail. Judges use a formula to assess whether to allow a defendant to leave, which considers variables including the type of offense, whether the defendant is a repeat offender and other factors that could affect flight risk and danger to the public. The judge also does not detain a defendant unless prosecutors request detention (which they typically do).
The types of defendants likely to be detained
Charges of violent crimes or sexual offenses number among those likely to result in detention. In addition, New Jersey's Supreme Court has enacted rules increasing the likelihood of detention for defendants charged with gun offenses or evading police officers.
Laws may change
Currently, there are two federal lawsuits challenging the bail reform, heavily supported by the bail industry. In the meantime, the new rules continue to be in effect.
If you face criminal charges in New Jersey, the issue of whether you will have to remain in jail until the resolution of your case or go on to pursue your daily life activities is an important one. An experienced criminal defense attorney can advocate for you and protect your interests at each stage of the case.