We recently passed the first anniversary of criminal justice reform in New Jersey. As discussed regularly on this blog, these far-reaching changes to criminal practice and procedure in the State affect the handling of all criminal cases in the Superior Court. The primary areas that these changes impact upon are bail reform and the speed with which criminal cases progress through the system.
As discussed in previous posts, the new procedures assume those charged with criminal offenses will not be incarcerated pending trial or other case disposition. Prosecutors can, however, seek to detain a defendant while their case is pending before the court. This is accomplished by means of a detention motion filed by the State, which is followed by a detention hearing. After considering, among other things the arguments of counsel and the Public Safety Assessment (the “PSA” – a sort of score sheet that rates the defendant for risk of failure to appear in court in the future and likelihood of committing new offenses), the court decides whether to release the defendant with or without conditions, require the posting of a bail, or detain the defendant without bail. The defendant can appeal an adverse detention decision.
SN was charged with sex offenses. The PSA gave him the lowest possible scores for risk of committing additional offenses and risk of failure to appear, but still recommended detention regardless of the low scores. The State sought pretrial detention, arguing that there was a serious risk that defendant would fail to appear in court, that he was a danger to the community, that he would intimidate the victim, her mother and other witnesses to obstruct justice, and that he was a flight risk because he had relatives living in another country. Continue reading