It's now been roughly four months since New Jersey introduced its drastically overhauled bail system, which no longer relies on cash bail, but instead on a risk assessment score and arguments advanced by counsel at a pretrial hearing.
While the universally accepted purpose of this major undertaking was to eliminate the inequity of having indigent, low-risk defendants remaining incarcerated due to their inability to post relatively small bail amounts, the rollout has been anything but smooth.
Advocates of the new bail system have argued that prosecutors are not only seeking detention in too many cases, but that judges are also granting too many of these detention requests. To that end, they point to data from the state judiciary committee revealing that 56 percent of detention requests were granted during the first three months of 2017.
On the other end of the spectrum, law enforcement officials have voiced frustrations over the new system creating a sort of revolving door in that many individuals are taken into custody, released without bail and subsequently rearrested for new offenses.
In fact, the frustration became so pronounced that the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General issued new rules just this week ordering prosecutors to request detention of any individual 1) accused of serious gun-related offenses, 2) with a history of sex crime convictions or 3) currently on parole/pre-trial release for another offense.
As noteworthy as this was, consider that the Supreme Court of New Jersey, which is tasked with oversight of the new bail system, formally adopted rule changes just yesterday.
These changes call for those individuals facing certain firearms-related charges or accused of having committed multiple offenses while on retrial release to face a recommendation of detention, meaning the ultimate decision would still rest with the presiding judge.
"Based on a review of empirical data and the legitimate concerns raised by various segments of the criminal justice community, we concluded that it was necessary to change how the system treats defendants arrested for certain types of offenses," said the justice serving as acting administrative director of the New Jersey court system.
For those unfamiliar with the new bail system, it calls for anyone taken into custody to receive a pretrial detention hearing within 48 hours of arrest. At the hearing, a judge will consider both a specially assigned number indicating how likely they are to reoffend or miss their court date, and arguments offered by counsel as to the need for continued detention. Those facing charges for sexual assault, murder and other violent crimes face a presumption of jail time.
Consider speaking with a skilled legal professional as soon as possible if you are under investigation or have been charged with any manner of criminal offense.