Everything you need to know about bail in New Jersey and how a prosecutor can keep you behind bars until trial
Pennsylvania and New Jersey have very different rules when it comes to pre-trial release and bail. Unlike the Commonwealth, New Jersey maintains a mostly cashless bail system under its bail reform. In New Jersey, the rules allow for pre-trial release by non-monetary means to reasonably ensure an eligible defendants appearance in court.
Who is eligible for release on bail in New Jersey?
All defendants are considered eligible with exceptions to those charged with capital offenses or those facing potential life sentences. If, however, a prosecutor believes that no monetary conditions will satisfy the goal of New Jersey’s bail reform, he/she can file a detention motion and have a judge order the defendant into pre-trial detention (See NJSA 2A: 162-115).
A court will use the following factors to determine whether release is appropriate:
- Protection of the safety of the community
- The eligible defendant will not obstruct or attempt to obstruct the justice process
- The eligible defendant will comply with all conditions of pre-trial release.
How long does it take to be released on bail following an arrest?
All defendants arrested in New Jersey on complaint warrants will be held a minimum of 48 hours to conduct an objective and standardized pre-trial risk assessment (PSA). A risk assessment hearing will occur in 48 hours of the commitment to the jail and a detention hearing on the state’s motion to detain will typically take place 3-5 days after that initial hearing.
There are 4 types of pre-trial statuses available in New Jersey:
- Release on own recognizance (unsecured bail)
- Release with non-monetary conditions
- Release on monetary bail with a combination of non-monetary conditions
- Detainment pending a pre-trial detention hearing
What happens at a detention hearing?
At a detention hearing a prosecutor must produce all statements or reports in possession related to the pre-trial detention application. The burden is on the State to show by clear and convincing evidence that no conditions can ensure public safety, or the defendant’s court appearance.
A defendant has the right to be represented by qualified criminal defense lawyer and if the defendant has not been indicted, the prosecutor must establish probable cause that the eligible defendant committed the predicate offense by preponderant standard. This is very similar to the preliminary hearing process in Pennsylvania but there are typically no witnesses called during probable cause hearings in New Jersey
How long does the State have to indict a defendant and take the case to trial?
The defendant must be indicted 90 days after detention and the state must try the case within 180 days. However, there are 13 exceptions which extend this time frame. Finally, a pre-indictment disposition conference must occur within 45 days before a judge and an arraignment must occur within 14 days of an indictment.
New Jersey classifies crimes into the following categories: a crime is of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th degree and a crime without a specification is a 4th degree crime. The term “offense” means a crime, a disorderly persons offense, or petty disorderly persons offense.
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