Our law firm wants to ensure that our clients in Pennsylvania and New Jersey understand their rights, especially in cases where they face a substantial state prison sentence for crimes involving the illegal possession of drugs, narcotics, firearms, and guns. In New Jersey criminal defendants often face mandatory minimum sentencing, and so if an accused is convicted at trial the individual will face a substantial state prison sentence.
In the past, however, defendants in New Jersey often waited long periods of time before their cases made it to trial. If these persons couldn’t afford bail, then they remained in custody until the trial date and received no credit or compensation from the state if acquitted at those proceedings. Now in New Jersey there is a speedy trial law which, similar to Pennsylvania, requires the prosecution to schedule and proceed with the trial or face the possibility that the case could be dismissed for lack of prosecution. This is known as a Rule 600 violation in Pennsylvania and now New Jersey has enacted similar legislation.
Before an indictment, the state can’t hold an individual longer than 90 days and no longer than 180 days after the indictment. Similar to the laws in Pennsylvania however, it’s important to understand that the 90 and 180 day rule contain “excludable time” exceptions which can and will affect how time is computed regarding the scheduling of the defendants indictment or trial.
What is excludable time that will affect your speedy trial rights in New Jersey?
The following are considered “excludable time” and will change the speedy trial clock of 90 and 180 days in New Jersey:
- Time resulting from the examination and hearing on competency and the period during which the eligible defendant is incompetent to stand trial or incapacitated
- Time from the filing to the disposition of the eligible defendant’s application for supervised retreatment, special probation, drug or alcohol treatment as a condition of probation, or other pre-trial or supervisory program pursuant to NJSA 2C: 45-1
- Time resulting from a continuance granted at the courts discretion at the eligible defendant’s request or at the request of the defendant and prosecutor (joint request)
- Time resulting from the detention of the eligible defendant in another jurisdiction provided the prosecutor has been diligent, has made reasonable efforts to obtain the eligible defendant’s presence
- Time resulting from exceptional circumstances including but not limited to natural disasters pandemics, the unavoidable availability of the eligible defendant, material witness, or other evidence when there is a reasonable expectation that the eligible defendant, witness, or evidence will be available in the near future
- Time resulting from the delay on the motion of the prosecutor when the court finds that the case is complex due to the number of defendants or the nature of the prosecution
- Time resulting from the severance of co-defendants when the severance permits only one trial to commence within a time period for trial set forth in this section
- Time resulting from the defendant’s failure to appear
- Time resulting from the disqualification or recusal of the judge
- Time resulting from the failure of the defendant to provide timely and complete discovery
- Time where the court finds good cause for the delay
What about pre-trial discovery and delays in a criminal case?
It is also important to understand that the failure of the prosecutor to provide timely and complete discovery is not considered excludable time unless the discovery only became available after the time set for discovery. See 2A: 162-22
How does the bail system work in New Jersey?
In addition to the changes to New Jersey law with regards to the speedy trial clock, the Garden State has also reformed its bail system, which is no longer based on monetary amounts but rather a pre-trial risk assessment (PSA Score). The PSA Score takes 9 factors into account to determine whether or not a defendant should be released prior to trial.
These include the following
- age of the defendant,
- the nature of the offense,
- and the pending charge against the defendant.
The court will also consider the defendant’s mental and physical condition, his or her family ties, employment status, financial resources, length in the community, and prior court appearances (failure to appear—FTA history).
For more great information on New Jersey criminal defense, tactics, and strategy I encourage you to keep reading my blog and look for my new book coming out later this year.
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