New Jersey rang in the New Year by implementing new criminal justice reforms aimed to guarantee a speedy trial to all those charged with crimes. The new rules also do away with the state’s bail system in favor of using software that helps judges determine whether an individual poses a flight risk or a danger to the community.
Here are eight things all New Jerseyans need to know about the changes to the state’s court system.
- The new rules only apply to those arrested in 2017.
Anyone arrested before the ball dropped in Times Square is not covered under the new rules. Those who were arrested in 2016 and are being held because they were unable to make bail will remain in custody pending trial. However, this could be challenged on constitutional grounds.
- Most defendants will be released with no bail.
The new rules mean nearly all defendants will be released with no monetary bail. However, an alleged offender who is deemed to be a flight risk or danger to the community can either be released on a combination of monetary bail and supervision, or held without bail.
- Some charges are automatically denied bail.
Alleged offenders will be held without bail or release for certain crimes. These include:
- Any crime that falls under New Jersey’s No Early Release Act, such as murder, kidnapping, sexual assault, robbery, carjacking, extortion, and terrorism.
- Crimes punishable by life in prison.
- Any Megan’s Law crime or human trafficking of a minor.
- Crimes involving domestic violence.
- The rules are intended to be more fair.
Under the old bail system, a person could be held in custody for over a year because he or she was unable to raise bail, while someone charged with a serious crime could post a very high bail amount and get released. The new system eliminates the bias toward socio-economic status in favor of using evidence and other factors for who should be released and under what conditions.
- Many factors are not allowed to be considered when determining risk.
In addition to eliminating income as a factor, the new rules limit other factors a judge can use to determine eligibility for release. These include ethnicity, gender, education, home address, history of substance abuse, family status, marital status, immigration status and national origin, employment status or type of employment, and religion.
- All defendants must be indicted within 90 days.
The new rules require that no more than 90 days pass from the time of an arrest to the time of an indictment for those awaiting trial in custody and no more than 180 days pass from the time of indictment to the start of trial. It also requires the entire process, including trial, take no more than two years. Any time the prosecution exceeds the time limits, the defendant may be released from custody (although the charges will not be dropped).
- Some courts will be open on Saturdays.
Central Judicial Processing Courts, which is the court circuit where offenders facing charges first appear, will be open on Saturdays in order to take on more cases and reduce the chances of a backlog. It also ensures those taken into custody on a Friday won’t have to wait the full weekend before facing a judge.
- Fiscal savings of the rules are questionable.
The new rules are also intended to save money. Fewer individuals held in custody unnecessarily for long periods of time should be more cost effective. However, as NorthJersey.com reported, the greatest savings would come from counties reducing the number of corrections officers on staff, which won’t happen overnight. These savings will also be mitigated by the need for new judges. It’s estimated that 20 new judges will have to be appointed to take on the extra load, each of whom will have to have office space and support staff.
If you or a loved one has been arrested for a criminal offense in New Jersey, you need the services of a skilled criminal attorney to help fight the charges. The lawyers of the Rosenblum Law Firm have a long track record of successfully defeating many types of criminal charges. Email the Rosenblum Law Firm or call 888-979-7551 today for a free consultation about your case.