Bail hearings in New Jersey: What are the factors a criminal court will consider to determine release and how is it different from Pennsylvania?
New Jersey, unlike Pennsylvania, maintains a non-monetary pre-trial bail system not based on cash, but rather legal arguments from your New Jersey criminal defense lawyer, and risk factors.
Why aren’t all people released prior to trial/plea on bail in New Jersey?
In New Jersey, a Defendant may be detained (held in jail) if the State proves, by clear and convincing evidence, that no release conditions would reasonably assure the Defendant’s appearance in Court, the safety of the community, or the integrity of the criminal justice process. See 2A:162-18 (a). Pennsylvania and New Jersey have similar bail systems but the major difference is money. Judges in Pennsylvania assign a dollar amount to compensate for high risk factors. In many ways, the New Jersey system is much better as it does not punish a person simply for not having the ability to pay his or her way out of jail prior to trial. All persons in Pennsylvania and New Jersey are entitled to bail (except Murder—life sentence allegation)
There is a rebuttable presumption for release on bail in New Jersey and the Prosecutor has the burden to overcome that presumption of release!
There is a rebuttable presumption of release under the law with conditions (See Rule 3:4A(b)(5)). A Prosecutor, however, can seek pre-trial detention for serious crimes, including alleged Graves Act offenses or crimes that carry a life sentence. A Court, however, may consider a recommendation against release as prima facia evidence that the State has overcome the presumption of release.
This recommendation is made in the Public Safety Assessment (PSA), which assigns a score to the Defendant based on the likelihood to appear at trial and the risk for future criminal activity. If the recommendation is for release, the Court can consider that as prima facia evidence that the State has not overcome the presumption of release.
If the State overcomes the presumption for release, the Court must consider pre-trial release with reasonable conditions (See 2A:162-19(c)). To decide if release is warranted, the Court must consider any combination of conditions which would reasonably guard against the risk of flight, danger, or obstruction.
The Court may take into account a number of factors, including the following:
- The nature of the offense.
- The weight of the evidence.
- The Defendant’s history and characteristics.
- The nature of the risk of danger and obstruction to justice the Defendant poses.
- The Public Safety Assessment release recommendation.
Does it matter if the Prosecution has a strong case against an accused person?
An important factor which the Court will consider is the weight of the evidence. This basically means whether or not the prosecution has a strong case against the Defendant, which would indicate a likely conviction at trial.
The weight of the evidence is an important factor because it reflects whether a person is likely to appear or poses a danger to a person or the community. Assuming there is probable cause to believe the Defendant committed the offense, or the evidence is weak, the Defendant may be more willing to take the State to trial which would likely reduce the risk of failing to appear.
Further, if the evidence is weak, the Court may consider that the Defendant is less likely to pose a danger to the community.
If you’re charged with a serious crime in New Jersey, pre-trial detention will likely be an issue which your New Jersey criminal defense attorney can address at a hearing before a Superior Court Judge. This is also the first opportunity to challenge the strength of the State’s case. If you are not released, you will need to remain in custody pending the outcome at trial or pre-trial Motions which could dismiss the action.
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