Defendants charged with a crime are usually held in jail for a while after they are charged. A detention hearing might be held to determine if the defendant should be released while they await trial.
A detention hearing is sort of like a bail hearing in New Jersey. While criminal defendants are often granted pretrial release thanks to relatively recent criminal justice reforms, prosecutors might still try to keep them in jail. Whether or not the defendant can be released is determined at the detention hearing. Prosecutors typically have to show that there is probable cause supporting the defendant’s arrest and charges, and that detention is necessary to secure the defendant’s appearance in court. Your attorney can help you defend yourself during a detention hearing. You could argue that you are not a flight risk, that a conviction is unlikely, that you have a positive history or background, or that the prosecutor cannot overcome the presumption for release.
To schedule a free case review and get started on your defense, call our detention hearings lawyers at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956.
What Happens at a Detention Hearing in New Jersey?
A detention hearing is unique to New Jersey’s criminal justice system, and you are unlikely to hear that phrase in a neighboring state. A detention hearing is intended to determine if a defendant remains in jail while their case is pending. In other states, this kind of hearing is similar to a bail hearing, although New Jersey handles the matter differently.
After the Criminal Justice Reform Act of 2017 was passed in New Jersey, the cash bail system was largely eliminated, and defendants are often not expected to pay any money to secure pretrial release. As such, there are no bail hearings in New Jersey anymore, at least not in the way bail was traditionally decided.
There is now a presumption that defendants should be released while they wait for their trial unless the prosecutor can prove there is a good reason to believe otherwise. The detention hearing is held to determine if the defendant should be detained or released before their trial. Normally, there is no monetary requirement.
What Prosecutors Must Prove at a Detention Hearing in New Jersey
Detention hearings do not happen in every single criminal case. Typically, the prosecutor must file a motion to detain at or before the defendant’s initial appearance. If the prosecutor chooses not to file a detention motion, there will be no hearing, and pretrial release is almost certain, barring special circumstances.
If a motion to detain is filed, the hearing is usually scheduled within only a few days. At the detention hearing, the prosecutor must first show sufficient probable cause that a crime was committed and that the defendant is likely the person who committed it. If they can establish this, they next must tackle the issue of detention.
In New Jersey, under the criminal justice reform laws, there is a presumption that defendants should be released before their trial. To detain a defendant, prosecutors must overcome this presumption and show that there is good reason to detain the defendant.
Generally, the prosecutor must show that no pretrial release conditions are sufficient to ensure the defendant’s appearance at trial, and detention is the only way to ensure the defendant does not flee. They might also argue that the defendant is likely to commit more crimes upon release or that they pose a danger to the community.
Defending Yourself in a Detention Hearing in New Jersey
You can defend yourself at a detention hearing and argue for your pretrial release in numerous ways. Since prosecutors must overcome the presumption of release to have you detained, one of the best methods is to present information showing how the presumption cannot be overcome.
Public Safety Assessments
When someone is arrested and charged with a crime, they are evaluated based on their potential risk to the community and their likelihood of fleeing. Public safety assessments are compilations of various facts about the defendant that might be relevant when deciding whether they should be detained or released before their trial. A few, but not all, of the factors weighed by these assessments include the defendant’s age, history of violence, current charges, and previous failures to appear in court.
Many defendants actually have very positive public safety assessment scores. If you are a first-time offender facing non-violent criminal charges, your public safety assessment may be used to persuade a judge at a detention hearing to release you.
Presumption of Release
In New Jersey, there is a presumption of release for defendants facing detention hearings. This means the judge will presume that releasing the defendant is necessary unless the prosecutor can prove otherwise. If it seems clear that the prosecutor cannot overcome this presumption, our detention hearing lawyers may argue this point to the judge. If the judge agrees that there is no way the presumption of release can be overcome, you might avoid being detained.
A Conviction is Unlikely
Another method to defend yourself in a detention hearing is to argue over the likelihood of a conviction. Even though the detention hearing is not about guilt or innocence, judges and court officials always have the big picture of your case in mind. If the government has very little evidence supporting your charges, we can argue that detention is pointless because a conviction is unlikely anyway.
Again, even if we can get the judge on our side, they cannot decide on matters of guilty at this stage of the criminal justice process. However, they may be persuaded to grant your pretrial release, as there is no sense in keeping someone in jail who will probably be found not guilty anyway.
The Defendant’s Background
If you have a relatively clean criminal background, we can use this information to argue for your pretrial release. This often comes up in detention hearings for first-time offenders with no criminal background. No criminal background also means there is no history of failing to appear in court, and there is no history of criminal violence. These are major factors in detention hearings, and we should emphasize your low-risk status to the judge.
Call Our New Jersey Detention Hearings Lawyers for Help
Our detention hearing lawyers are here to assist you, and you can call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 to schedule a free review of your case with our team.