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NJ Bail Reform To Take Effect Jan. 2017

Burlington County Criminal Defense Attorney

In the upcoming new year, important reforms will take place in our state’s criminal justice process. In particular, changes to our bail procedures, including how it is set, will have significant implications for defendants.

There are many benefits to hiring a lawyer, but It will now be crucial for defendants to secure proper representation by a Burlington County criminal defense attorney prior to their first court appearance.

What Is the Purpose of Bail?

Bail is important to the criminal justice process. Not only does it help ensure public safety, but it also eliminates the possibility of a defendant failing to appear in court for subsequent hearings. Unfortunately, the system is not perfect. Under the current process, an individual usually remains in prison following an arrest or being charged until their court date. However, if the individual can “post bail” (pay a certain amount of money) they are released and free to live at home until their trial begins.

In New Jersey, bail is determined by various factors (N.J.S.A. 3:26-1). With this system, there is a high number of individuals sitting in jail awaiting trial – and not always because they are a danger or a flight risk, but because they could not afford bail. In turn, a defendant may lose his job and be unable to support his family.

The Reformed System

With the upcoming changes taking effect in January 2017, the bail system will shift to a risk-based approach. An objective, standardized assessment will be put in place to determine whether a defendant may or may not be released prior to their trial. This new race/gender neutral-evaluative tool will assess the following risks:

  • That the defendant will be arrested for a new offense
  • That the defendant will be arrested for a new violent crime
  • That the defendant will fail to appear in court

Within 48 hours, a defendant must be deemed low, moderate, or high risk, and a determination must be made regarding release or incarceration. Based on the defendant’s risk level, a judge will set the terms and conditions of pretrial release. The judge’s options include:

  • Released on their own recognizance (ROR)
  • ROR with non-monetary terms/conditions
  • Monetary bail
  • Monetary bail with terms/conditions
  • Detention

The majority of defendants are expected to fall within the first category if the judge finds that he or she is reasonably likely to appear in court, there is minimal risk to the community, and he or she will not obstruct the criminal justice process. Opting for Detention (incarceration without bail) may only be done after a motion by the State, and the defendant would be given a hearing with the right to representation.

Do Not Wait To Contact A Burlington County Criminal Defense Attorney

This reform will protect defendants’ liberty prior to a fair trial – especially when many defendants are charged with minor, non-violent crimes. That is why it is vital to contact Mark Catanzaro, an experienced criminal defense attorney in Burlington County, prior to your first court appearance. Mark Catanzaro will guide you through the process and fight to ensure your pretrial release. Don’t wait – call the trusted Burlington County criminal defense attorney today!


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