What is a Detention Hearing in NJ?

Facing criminal charges can be a stressful and confusing experience. To ensure that your rights and interests are protected after being arrested, contact our attorneys as soon as possible. One of the first and most important proceedings we can help with will be your detention hearing.

At your detention hearing, the judge presiding over your case will determine whether you will be held in jail until its conclusion. You may be released and given a date to return to court. However, if you are detained, you must remain in prison until your case is over.

If you are facing a detention hearing in New Jersey, seek guidance and support from our experienced Atlantic City criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych by calling (609) 616-4956.

What is a Detention Hearing in NJ?

A detention hearing is a crucial step in the judicial process for a criminal defendant in New Jersey. During this hearing, it is determined whether they will be held in jail for the duration of their case.

There are multiple factors that may be analyzed during your detention hearing. For instance, the judge may consider your Public Safety Assessment. This is a risk assessment measuring your likelihood to appear in court and the potential danger you pose to society if released. Furthermore, a judge may take their own personal judgement into account.

At the end of your detention hearing, the judge is free to make their own decision regarding whether or not to release you. Additionally, the judge will ultimately decide what conditions may be imposed upon you during your potential release.

Criminal trials can take a very long time to complete. Those who must wait in prison for their cases to conclude can undergo a high degree of emotional distress. However, without legal representation from our Atlantic City criminal defense lawyers, you may be taken advantage of during your detainment hearing.

What Happens Before Your Detention Hearing in NJ?

After being arrested, prosecutors will evaluate your case and decide whether to issue a summons or a warrant. If a warrant is issued, then pretrial services will prepare what is known as a “public safety assessment” for your case. This public safety assessment will serve as a recommendation to the court regarding your potential release. This assessment will take multiple factors into account such as the likelihood you will appear in court as directed and the likelihood you will commit another violent crime if you are released.

Once your public safety assessment has been administered, you will attend your first appearance hearing. This hearing should take place within 24 to 48 hours of your arrest. During your first appearance, the prosecutor has to file a motion for detention. If they do not file a motion for detention, then the judge may release you subject to certain conditions recommended by the prosecutor or pretrial services. If a motion for detention is filed during your first appearance, then a detention hearing should be scheduled between 3 to 5 days after that.

What to Expect at Your Detention Hearing in NJ

During your detention hearing, there will likely be a presumption that you should be released from jail while your case is pending. The only time this presumption will not exist is if you are facing charges for serious offenses like murder.

At your detention hearing, the prosecutor must first establish probable cause that a crime has been committed and that you were involved. This is a relatively low standard that can usually be satisfied by presenting items like the affidavit of probable cause, the complaint itself, and the applicable police report.

After probable cause for your offense has been proven, the matter of detention will be addressed. In order for you to be detained, the prosecutor has to prove that no condition of release will reasonably ensure the public’s safety or guarantee that you will appear in court. If the prosecutor’s detention motion succeeds, then you will be ordered to wait in jail until your case is completed. However, if you defeat the detention motion, then you may be released.

How Do You Defend Against a Detention Motion in NJ?

There are several potential defenses you may employ when fighting a motion to detain. The type of defense that you should utilize will depend on a wide array of factors surrounding your case.

For example, you may argue that your public safety assessment supports your release. As previously discussed, your public safety assessment is a measurement of the risk you pose for not showing up to court or causing harm to members of society when released. If you hire experienced legal representation before your detention hearing, you may be able to prove use a favorable assessment to demonstrate why the prosecutor’s motion to detain is unjustified.

Get Case Dismissed

Furthermore, you may defend against a detention motion by arguing that the charges you are facing are unlikely to result in your conviction. At your detention hearing, the prosecutor must establish probable cause for your offenses. When determining if probable cause has been established, the judge may consider the severity of your offenses, the weight of the evidence presented against you, and the likelihood you will be convicted. There are certain ways to attack the prosecutor’s evidence and prove that there is genuine doubt you will be found guilty at trial. For example, you may defeat a detention motion by asserting that key evidence was obtained through an improper search and seizure.

Presumption of Release

Another way to defeat a detention motion involves arguing that the prosecution cannot overcome the presumption of release. During your detention hearing, there will likely be a presumption that you should be released unless you are being charged with a crime like murder that can carry a penalty of life imprisonment. In order to defeat this presumption in support of their detention motion, the prosecutor must demonstrate that there are no conditions for your release that will ensure you will show up in court and keep you from harming others. This can be a very high burden for the prosecutor in your case to overcome.

Argue Detention is Unnecessary

Finally, you may defeat a detention motion by establishing that your criminal background supports your release. If your criminal record is limited, then it can be argued that it is unlikely you will exhibit improper conduct upon your release. Furthermore, in addition to demonstrating that you have a minor or nonexistent criminal record, you may support your releasee by demonstrating your ties to your community and track record of stabled employment.

Call a Lawyer for Help with Your Detention Hearing in NJ

After being arrested in New Jersey, call a lawyer as soon as possible for help preparing for your detention hearing. Your detention hearing will likely be held within 3 to 5 days of your first appearance. During this hearing, it is crucial that you have experienced legal representation on your side to ensure that you are not improperly detained while waiting for your case to end. Our legal team can help identify the best defense for your case. Accordingly, you may defeat the prosecutor’s detention motion and avoid spending time in jail.

Can You Appeal a Detention Order in NJ?

An order for pre-trial detention can be devastating for a criminal defendant. Thankfully, you may be able to appeal a judge’s detention order in your case.

In order to appeal your detention order, you must first seek a “leave to appeal” the decision. There basis for your appeal can vary. For example, you may argue that a procedural error was made that denied you the opportunity for a fair detention hearing. You may also assert that a factual error was made such as procurement of an incomplete public safety assessment or presentation of an inaccurate criminal history. Finally, you may establish a legal basis for your appeal, such as an unsatisfied burden to disprove the presumption of release.

The procedure for filing an appeal of your detention order can vary depending on what specifically you are challenging. For instance, you may need to file a full brief along with the complete transcripts of the previous decision, or merely a small excerpt. While your appeal is being processed, you will have to remain in jail.

Is There Still Bail in NJ?

In 2017, New Jersey enacted criminal justice bail reform measures that did away with bail bonds and cash bails. Under the previous system, anyone charged with a crime could post a bail bond that would allow them to avoid jail. This bail bond could be posted before defendants even went in front of a judge.

Several problems arose out of this old system. Bail bondsmen were accepting very low payments to release defendants. Afterwards, those who posted bond would be on the hook for expensive loans with extraordinarily high interest rates. Furthermore, in many cases, defendants were arrested again after posting bail for their previous offenses.

Therefore, New Jersey implemented a new system in which cash bails and bail bonds do not exist. This system facilitates speedy trials and more closely aligns with the judicial process in federal courts.

Now, when you are arrested, prosecutors will decide whether issue a summons complaint or a warrant complaint. If you are issued a warrant complaint, you will follow the process for attending your first appearance hearing and detention hearing to determine if you will be held in jail while your case is pending. However, if you are issued a summons complaint, you may be released immediately.

What is the Difference Between a Summons and a Warrant in NJ?

There are two different forms of criminal complaints that may be issued upon your arrest. These are summons complaints and warrant complains. There are major differences between each type of complaint.

Summons complaints are typically issued in cases where defendants are facing charges for relatively minor offenses like disorderly conduct, simple assault, or minor drug charges. If you are issued a summons complaint, then you will have to show up to court to answer for the minor charges being filed against you. In other words, you will be free to go until your prescribed court date, as opposed to being detained in jail.

Meanwhile, warrant complaints are issued to defendants who are facing more significant offenses like aggravated assault, robbery, sexual assault, domestic violence, or murder. If you receive a warrant complaint, then you will be detained until your detention hearing. If the prosecutor’s motion for detention is upheld at your hearing, then you will remain in police custody until your case goes to trial.

Can Pre-Trial Detention Hurt Your Case in NJ?

It is important to seek competent legal representation before your detention hearing so that you have the best chance possible to defeat the prosecution’s detention order. There are multiple ways that pre-trial detention can hurt your case. A 2013 study shows that defendants who are released may have better outcomes than those who are detained.

Clients Who Stay in Jail Before Trial May Get Longer Sentences

First, defendants who must stay in jail while their cases are pending may receive longer sentences than those who are released. The Pretrial Criminal Justice Research Summary produced by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF) can be found here. According to this study, defendants who underwent pretrial detention were over 3 times more likely to be given prison sentences than those who were released while their trials were pending.

Clients Who Stay in Jail Before Trial May Relapse Into Criminal Behavior

Additionally, defendants who are detained before trial may be likely to relapse into criminal behavior. The previously mentioned study performed by the LJAF found that a strong correlation exists between the length of time criminal defendants spend in prison and their likelihood to engage in criminal activity in the future.

If You Are Facing Criminal Charges in New Jersey, Contact Our Law Firm for Help

Get help from our experienced Haddonfield, NJ criminal defense attorneys by calling the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 for a free assessment of your case.

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