Everyone here is scrambling to implement the criminal justice reforms that become effective on January 1, 2017. As stated in a previous posting, the new laws and procedures change New Jersey’s criminal justice system in many significant ways.
The new bail procedure departs substantially from current law. Under the current system, a defendant’s pretrial release depends their ability to post a monetary bail. Under the new procedure, pretrial release will depend upon the extent of the risk that the defendant will not appear in court when s/he is supposed to do so, and whether the defendant poses a danger to the community. The reforms address a problem known to exist for a long time. Under current procedure, defendants who do not present any meaningful risk to the community can remain in jail throughout their case only because they cannot afford to pay even a minimal bail, whereas defendants with more significant resources can afford to post bail even if they are a flight risk, or are perceived as dangerous.
Under the new system, when a defendant is arrested on a complaint-warrant, the judge setting bail will use an objective, validated risk assessment tool developed by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation to assess the risk that the defendant will be arrested for a new offense; be arrested for a new violent crime; and fail to appear in court when required to do so. The assessment is designed to be race and gender neutral. Based upon the risk assessment score, the defendant will be classified as low, moderate or high risk, and the judge will then set the terms and conditions of pretrial release accordingly. The decision to release or incarcerate the defendant must be made within 48 hours. The courts will, however, be trying to make this decision within 24 hours. Continue reading