An Essex County man was released before trial with a required electronic monitoring (EM) device when he was accused of attacking a woman. He had no prior criminal convictions and, according to an algorithm used, was determined a low risk for violent crime.
Unfortunately, the man was accused several months later of shooting two Newark brothers to death in Newark while he was awaiting trial for the above-alleged assault. As a result, questions about bail reform and public safety are in the news.
New Jersey’s New Bail Reform System
Does the new bail reform system in New Jersey protect defendants’ rights and the community? In 2016, voters said yes to a bail reform referendum for low-risk and perceived non-violent defendants to remain free before the trial date. The law went into effect in January 2017.
In theory, bail reform is supposed to reduce or eliminate bail for people charged with a minor offense when they pose no threat to the surrounding community. Before the law went into effect, some individuals unable to make bail spent months or years behind bars before the matter went to trial. Many people in custody in New Jersey weren’t serving a sentence after conviction—but were waiting for their trial.
In contrast, a suspect with financial wherewithal could post bail or use a bail bond firm’s services to get released from jail after arrest. That’s why New Jersey bail reform was so important—the law sought to level the playing field between those who could afford to make bail and those who could not.
New Bail System
New Jersey’s bail system is now based on an idea that people charged with many crimes can be released until trial. It’s up to law enforcement to decide whether to charge an individual on a warrant or summons. If the decision is made to issue a warrant, the defendant is taken into custody. Probation services make recommendations to the court. In some cases, the recommendation may include monitoring the defendant until his or her scheduled first appearance in court.
The new process uses a “pretrial risk assessment” that is initiated by police after the defendant’s fingerprints are taken. The “preliminary safety assessment” (PSA) is then provided to law enforcement to determine whether it’s appropriate to release the defendant or to detain him or her until the court considers the matter.
A PSA is based on multiple factors, including:
- A defendant’s failure to appear (FTA) increases his or her risk assessment.
- A defendant’s “new criminal activity” scale (NCA)
- A defendant’s “new violent criminal activity” (NVCA) assessment
Violent or Sexual Offenses
Domestic violence, witness tampering, bail jumping, probation violation, etc., adds to the perceived risk of the defendant in New Jersey. After the court evaluates the available information, it determines the defendant’s pretrial release status.
At that point, the defendant is entitled to obtain legal representation for the initial court hearing.
Consult with a Certified New Jersey Trial Attorney
If you’ve been arrested in New Jersey, you need an experienced advocate to help you navigate the criminal justice system. The sooner you involve an experienced New Jersey defense attorney, the better.
Questions about bail and whether you may be entitled to freedom before your trial date are frequent concerns. Contact James M. Porfido, Attorney at Law, at (973) 370-9788 to discuss your potential case now.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney/client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.