Criminal Justice Bail Reform
Our criminal justice system is bound by three bedrock principles: Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty, that they have constitutional right to a speedy trial, and their guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. During the signing of the Bail Reform Act of 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson spoke of the need for criminal justice reform in which some criminal defendants could post bail and buy their freedom while others would suffer in jail before trial, not because they were guilty or likely to flee, but because they were poor. President Johnson remarked that the “The scales of justice, were weighted not with fact, nor law, nor mercy, but with money.”
Starting January 1, 2017 the State of New Jersey moved from a system that relied principally on setting monetary bail as a condition of release to a risk based system that is more objective in its treatment of defendants, promotes public safety, and is fairer to those accused of breaking the law because it is unrelated to their ability to pay bail. A recent study revealed that roughly 12% of New Jersey’s county jail population remained in custody because they could not post bail of $2,500.00 or less. More than two-thirds of indigent defendants were members of racial and cultural minority groups, and
Alternatively, under the old law those defendants with financial assets could post bail and be released even if they were a serious flight risk or posed a danger to the public. Now under the reformed criminal justice system those who are determined to be dangerous or a threat to public safety can be held without bail pending trial. Judges will consider other objective criteria such as the defendant’s age, pending charges, criminal convictions, history
of violent crime, prior failures to appear, and any prior terms of incarceration.
Every defendant will be classified as low, moderate, or high risk and can be released on conditions without having to post monetary bail. If determined to be dangerous they would be held without bail pending trial. If you are charged on a warrant, you will be taken to the county jail for your first court appearance; you will be scheduled to appear before a judge within 48 hours of your arrest and commitment. The court will make a pretrial release decision within those 48 hours, based upon the allegations and risk to the public the prosecutor can move for detention pending trial.
If you are detained without bail, there are three important time frames that will apply to your case; an indictment must be returned or unsealed within 90 days. The trial must start within 180 days after the indictment, and an overall limit from detention to trial of two years.