As of January 1, 2017, New Jersey’s Bail Reform Act has gone into effect, changing the way New Jersey deals with bail. The Act changes New Jersey’s bail system from one where nearly every case required defendants to pay some amount of money to get out of jail. New Jersey realized, though, that this system discriminated against people who had no money to pay for bail and gave a greater benefit to wealthier defendants.
So now, instead of asking for bail on most cases, New Jersey has completely flipped its view. Out of nearly 4,000 criminal cases in New Jersey in January, 2017, less than three hundred defendants were denied bail. Of the rest that were released from jail while they awaited trial, only three defendants were asked to pay bail. If bail is so unlikely, you may be wondering what your lawyer does to keep you out of jail. Our Atlantic City criminal defense lawyers explain below:
New Jersey Bail Explained
It is important to understand how bail works, in general, in order to understand your lawyer’s role in the process. When you are arrested for a crime, after you are arraigned (formally informed of the charges against you), bail is usually set. The goal of bail is to make sure that people appear at their next court date. There are multiple types of bail available:
- If a defendant is a huge flight risk, or a danger to the community, a judge may deny bail and leave the defendant locked-up in jail until trial.
- If the person is likely to show up, they may be released on their own recognizance. Often called “RoR,” this simply means there are no bail penalties.
- The defendant may be asked to pay some amount in cash before release.
- The defendant may be asked to pay some amount if they fail to appear, but pay nothing up front, called “unsecured”
- The defendant may be asked to pay some amount of cash if they fail to appear, but that money is “secured” by an up-front payment. They lose the money paid up front if they fail to appear. An example is setting bail at “$1,000, 10%,” where you pay 10% of $1,000 up front (which is $100), and the other $900 if you fail to appear.
Previously, New Jersey preferred to set cash amounts in most cases. This had the effect of people basically paying their way out of jail, while the poor and mentally ill who cannot afford bail usually stayed in jail.
Now, under New Jersey’s new system, they greatly prefer RoR and unsecured bail. Under each of these, you pay nothing up front and only face cash penalties or re-arrest if you fail to appear at your next court dates.
Bail Can Still Be Harsh – or Denied Altogether
Just because the system prefers release does not mean you will be released on every case. Especially violent or dangerous defendants, or those who pose a flight risk, may be denied bail altogether. The violence and danger analysis is usually based on the severity and violence of the charged crime, plus the defendant’s criminal history. For most, this will not be an issue.
The flight risk analysis, though, may affect many people. Flight risk is based on one’s ability to transport themselves or otherwise get a ride to court, and their ties to the community. For instance, someone without a driver’s license who lives and works in Texas, but was arrested on a gambling trip to Atlantic City has almost no ties to the community. Because of this, bail may be denied, and the defendant could remain in jail to ensure they will get to court.
Bail can also be revoked, at any time, if the prosecutor files a motion asking for bail to be revoked. This is automatically available in a wide variety of crimes, including robbery, aggravated assault, drug-induced deaths, any domestic violence crime, and some sexual assaults.
Even if bail is set as RoR or unsecured, the bail agency may impose extra conditions on the defendants. These may include checking in with the bail agency, staying with a designated person, keeping your job, following a curfew, seeking medical or drug treatment, avoiding drugs or alcohol, or even being placed on a GPS monitor.
Speak With an Experienced Atlantic City Criminal Lawyer
An experienced criminal defense attorney knows the options available for bail and the proper arguments to make to keep a client out of jail while they await trial. No matter what crime you are charged with, there is still a chance that a judge may force you to pay a lot of money or face harsh constraints while you await trial. In other cases, the judge or prosecutor may be set on denying your freedom before you are even proven guilty. Having an attorney on your side could be what makes the difference between sitting in jail for months while you await trial, and getting to go home.
If you have been arrested in New Jersey, even under the new bail system, it is important to have an attorney on your side when it comes time to set bail. If you would like to consult with the Law Offices of John Zarych, an Atlantic County assault defense attorney with over forty years of experience in New Jersey criminal defense, call (609) 616-4956 for a free consultation.