BAIL REFORM ACT OF 2017

Pretrial release and pretrial detention in New Jersey have changed since enactment of the Bail Reform Act of 2017. If a complaint is filed against a person accused of a criminal offense, it can take the form of a summons or a warrant. A summons is based on the legal assumption that the person charged does not pose a threat or danger to another person or the community and is likely to appear in court. The courts use an algorithm to assess these factors in the case of crimes. In lesser offenses, such as disorderly persons offenses, summonses are the most common form of complaint, unless the charge is based on a violation of a domestic violence restraining order. With violations of restraining orders and certain other crimes warrants are utilized.

When a complaint warrant is issued, the accused will be arrested and placed in custody until called before a judge for review of his or her status. The judge will evaluate the Pretrial Services Assessment to determine if any conditions of release should be imposed, such as refraining from contact with the victim. The report of Pretrial Services, based upon an algorithm approved by the New Jersey Supreme Court, considers the nature of the charge, the prior criminal history of the accused, if any, past failures to appear in court, and other factors. The county prosecutor may file a motion to detain the accused. If a motion to detain is filed the accused will not be released until there is a hearing. An accused person or family should retain defense counsel as soon as possible. The defense attorney will gather whatever reports and statements are available from the police and prosecutor to evaluate the case. The defense attorney will also have access to the pretrial services investigation report to gauge the relative strength of the prosecutor’s motion to detain and best course of action to secure the client’s release. The criminal defense attorney should involve the client’ s family and his or her contacts with the community to persuade the court to release his client.

Release from custody may include periodic reports to pretrial services, or even GPS monitored home detention in certain cases. It is imperative that the lawyer and client maintain contact to ensure that all conditions of release are met until the case is resolved.