New Jersey Bail Reform in 2017
Taking effect in January 2017, major changes are happening to New Jersey’s bail system.
New Jersey voters approved a 2014 amendment which eradicated the state constitutional right to bail that allows defendants to be released from jail on bail unless they didn’t have the money. Instead of a judge setting a monetary bail, courts will rate defendants based on security risks.
The following is a closer look at what exactly is changing:
How Does the Bail Change Impact Defendants?
Courts will now have the power to rate defendants according to potential security risks they pose. According to supporters of the law, the change means that minor offenders can return to work while they wait for their trial date. Under the previous system, offenders were entitled to bail by the constitution could go free if they had the money, while others (many low-risk defendants and the poor) would remain in jail until trial if they couldn’t come up with the money. Supporters also cite the overcrowding of jail and the unfairness to minorities and poorer residents.
Critics of the change, mostly comprised of local government officials, argue that they must spend $1 million to $2 million to implement these provisions and need more staffing. Furthermore, they say the change will be a financial burden on local taxpayers.
How Will This Affect the Taxpayers?
While it is not clear, several costs and benefits have been determined. In 2014, the Office of Legislative Services estimated that the state budget would save approximately $42 million, such as savings from no longer housing inmates. However, legal services and the use of a digital courts system to accommodate the reforms would cost a combined $20 million. In addition, $35 million is needed for staff to perform risk assessments and drug tests, as well as monitor defendants.
The Importance of an Attorney
With these new changes, it is more important than ever before to be represented by a lawyer before your first court appearance. The protections in the reform include the right to be represented by legal counsel and to cross-examine witnesses. In cases where an individual’s release or detention depends on the outcome of a detention hearing, having a skilled attorney on your side can help you obtain the outcome you desire.