How Does Bail Work in New Jersey in 2024?

When a defendant is arrested and charged with a crime, the courts must determine the issue of bail. Bail is an amount of money set by a judge or magistrate that the defendant must pay to be released from jail while they await trial. While bail is considered for each defendant, how it is set will vary from case to case, if it is set at all.

In 2017, New Jersey eliminated its cash bail system. In its place, a new system was initiated that only holds people in jail if they are a flight risk or a danger to the community. People can no longer be held in jail simply because they cannot afford bail. This new system is based on the principle that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, and innocent people should not be held in jail.

If you or someone close to you has been arrested and charged with a crime in New Jersey, they will need to pay their bail before being released. Our New Jersey bail attorneys can help you get bail while also fighting to reduce your bail if necessary. Call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 to arrange a free consultation.

How Bail Is Decided in New Jersey in 2024

Bail can be described as a certain sum of money that a defendant must pay to the court to be released from jail while they await trial. However, the purpose of bail is not to make money for the court. The purpose of bail is to ensure the defendant’s return to court for trial. If a defendant returns to court, their bail will be refunded. However, if they do not appear for trial or skip bail, they do not get the money back and may be arrested again.

Many people believe that everyone has a right to bail, but this is not entirely accurate. While bail is often granted to defendants, the courts can withhold bail if they see fit. People have a right to be free from excessive bail, not a right to bail in general. If bail is to be granted, it must be fair in relation to the criminal charges.

Nearly all criminal defendants in New Jersey are now entitled to a presumption of release. This presumption means that if the prosecutor wants to hold a defendant in jail while they await trial, the prosecutor must demonstrate that the defendant poses a safety risk to the community or is unlikely to return to court. Defendants are permitted to call and question witnesses at this time to support their release.

Bail is determined by using a public safety assessment (PSA). The PSA was designed to help judges make informed decisions about releasing defendants on bail. The PSA identifies factors and details that best predict if a defendant will constitute a public safety concern. PSAs can be used to determine the likelihood of a defendant re-offending when they are released or possibly not returning to court. Our New Jersey bail lawyers will work to help you get released.

Why Do We Need Bail in NJ?

In 2024, you would think we have better ways of making sure people appear in court than charging them money for failing to show up. New Jersey’s modernized bail approach does take this into account by pushing for more ROR bail (release on your own recognizance) and allowing for more defendants to leave jail without having to pay cash for it. And yet, there are still some cases where courts find bail is needed in pursuit of two major goals:

Dangers to Society

One reason bail is issued is because the defendant is deemed a “danger to society.” By pushing for a higher bail amount – or by denying bail altogether – judges attempt to keep people in jail where they cannot hurt people. However, NJ’s modern bail system requires strong showings of danger before the judge can be allowed to raise bail or deny bail.

Courts are vague on what constitutes a “danger to society,” but the phrase is often used for serious alleged crimes like mass shootings, murder, serial abuse, etc. It can sometimes be used for dangerous, repeat drunk drivers, but this might not be dangerous enough to constitute a serious risk, especially if the driver has already been stripped of their license or had an interlock installed on their car.

In any case, our lawyers can make arguments showing that you are not a risk and that bail should be granted or reduced.

Flight Risk

The original purpose of bail was to make sure that people showed up to their court dates by making sure that they would pay a penalty and forfeit their bail money if they did not appear at their next court date. However, this should not be needed if there is no evidence that the defendant won’t show up to court. Our current bail system assumes that people will show up to court, so there is only a need to raise or deny bail if there is actual evidence against this presumption.

If you have a history of previous bail jumping or failing to appear at your court dates, that could hurt your chances of being let go on your own recognizance.

If you have strong ties to the community and there is a low likelihood of you fleeing the state or leaving the area, that should also weigh in favor of ROR bail. For example, if you have a job nearby and your family lives in this community, it is unlikely you will flee, so you are considered a low flight risk. Other similar factors can also help you get ROR bail.

When is Bail Denied in New Jersey?

Although the goal is to presume that defendants should be released, there are grounds in some cases to deny bail altogether. This is primarily done when there is a strong risk of the defendant fleeing or they are considered a risk to the community. These factors are discussed above.

Note that a low flight risk and a mild danger to the community are not enough to deny bail altogether; there must usually be strong evidence for a judge to throw out the option of bail entirely.

As discussed below, there are also certain charges where the court has more leeway to denial bail or increase your bail conditions to protect the community. Getting bail granted in cases involving serious crimes like murder can be much harder.

Bail Jumping and Failure to Appear in New Jersey

When a defendant is released and then fails to show up for court, they have skipped bail. Skipping bail is also referred to as bail jumping. When a defendant skips bail, they forfeit their bail, and a warrant for their immediate arrest is issued. When you are brought back into court, the judge must decide what to do with you. In many cases, bail is revoked and you must remain in jail for the duration of your trial. The law regarding bail forfeiture can be found under N.J.S.A. § 2A:160-26 of New Jersey’s Administration of Civil and Criminal Justice code.

Bail jumping may have other consequences besides forfeiture and arrest. When the court determines bail, the judge will look at the defendant’s criminal history. If a defendant has a history of skipping bail, they may be designated a flight risk under the PSA used by the court. Being perceived as a flight risk may have a negative impact on any future criminal proceedings. Speak to our New Jersey bail attorneys about your case if you were arrested for skipping bail.

The most serious consequence of bail jumping is usually that a bench warrant will be issued against you. This allows the police to arrest you the next time they have an interaction with you, whether that means arresting you for a separate offense or coming across you during a traffic stop. When there is a bench warrant for you, you will need to have your lawyers call the courthouse and attempt to get the case rescheduled. We need to have the warrant dropped or else you constantly risk arrest until you address the pending case.

Conditions of Bail in New Jersey

Bail is about more than just being released before your trial. For some defendants, the court may impose conditions that must be adhered to if the defendant wants to remain free on bail. The exact conditions of your bail will depend on the nature of your offense and who your alleged victim is. Bail conditions are common in cases of domestic violence or other instances in which a victim needs protection.

One example of a condition imposed with bail is an order to keep away from the victim. To comply with the terms of their bail, the defendant must stay away from their alleged victim and have no contact with them. Another common condition of bail is the defendant is forbidden from possessing contraband like firearms or drugs. If a defendant is found to violate these terms, they may be arrested and their bail revoked even if they have not skipped bail. Call our New Jersey bail lawyers for help with your bail conditions.

New Jersey Bail Restrictions

As mentioned above, courts can impose certain restrictions on bail for specific criminal charges. These restrictions often require defendants to pay bail in more limited ways that are more likely to ensure their return to court. According to N.J.S.A. § 2A:162-12 of New Jersey’s Administration of Civil and Criminal Justice code, crimes that come with bail restrictions include:

  • Murder
  • Manslaughter
  • Kidnapping
  • Sexual assault
  • Robbery
  • Carjacking
  • Arson
  • Crimes that cause or risk widespread injury
  • Burglary
  • Extortion
  • Endangering the welfare of a child
  • Resisting arrest or eluding an officer
  • Escape
  • Corrupting a jury
  • Weapons possession for an unlawful purpose
  • Weapons training for illegal activities
  • Gang member recruitment
  • Human trafficking

You must be charged with one of the above crimes in the first or second degree for the restrictions to kick in. Charges with bail restrictions also include certain first- or second-degree drug offenses and any crimes involving domestic violence.

These restrictions do not allow judges to increase bail because they find the offense charged to be more heinous. Instead, it means the defendant must pay bail in a way that is more likely to ensure their return to court, such as:

  1. Full cash, not just a portion of bail
  2. A surety bond
  3. Bail bond secured by real property within the state with unencumbered equity equal to the bail amount plus an additional $20,000.

If you are on restricted bail, speak with our New Jersey bail attorneys for help.

Do I Need Bail?

If you are granted bail, that means you can go home. If your bail is denied or the amount is set at such a high price that you cannot afford to pay bail, you will have to stay in jail while you await your trial.

Any time spent in jail is obviously bad, but it is also detrimental to your career, your family time, and even your physical and mental health. Not only that, but being free on bail while you await your trial gives you time to meet with your attorneys, build a strong case, collect evidence in your favor, and take other steps toward showing any potential future sentencing judge that you do not deserve additional jail time if you are eventually convicted.

Because of this, it is vital that you get bail. If your bail has been denied or set at a high value, you should definitely consider having your attorney try to argue down the bail amount or get bail set so that you can spend less time in jail.

At the end of the day, if you do spend time in jail while you await your trial and you are ultimately convicted, the time spent in jail – called “time served” – might be applied toward your final sentence. That might make it a good strategy in your case to simply accept the time in jail while you await trial, but only if you are already on your way toward a plea deal that will give you credit for “time served.” Otherwise, you are serving time while you are still innocent, which is not supposed to happen after NJ’s bail reforms.

Speak to Our New Jersey Bail Attorneys About Your Case Today

If you or a loved one was arrested for a criminal offense, speak with our New Jersey bail lawyers for help getting fair and affordable bail. Call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 to set up a free consultation with our staff.

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