With the most recent legislative session coming to a close, several members of the NJ Legislature are trying to gather support for a couple of significant bail reform measures.
The legislative proposals would fundamentally transform the state’s existing bail system. However, a deadline of August 4 is less than a week away, making it crucial for lawmakers to pass a resolution calling for an amendment to the State Constitution – a move that would allow voters to cast the ultimate decision in November.
The proposed amendment (SCR128) has already received support from Governor Chris Christie. If approved, the amendment would allow judges to deny bail to defendants who meet specific criteria. The reasons for denial could include: the defendant poses a threat to public safety; the defendant is a potential flight risk; the defendant is likely to commit obstruction of justice when released from custody.
Interestingly, members of the State’s Democratic Party, which holds a majority in the legislature, are looking to pass an accompanying measure: bill S946. If this bill is passed into law, defendants facing charges for less serious criminal offenses would be offered non-monetary conditions for bail if they are unable to meet bail requirements. Although the requirements for bail would be relaxed, these defendants would still have to comply with all necessary conditions of bail prior to appearing in court.
The non-monetary conditions outlined in bill 946 include: avoiding contact with the alleged victim and potential witnesses; release to the custody of a court-approved supervisor; maintaining employment while on bail; enrolling in an educational program; reporting to a pretrial services program; entering a drug or alcohol rehabilitation treatment center if needed; and wearing an electronic monitoring device.
The State Senate is expected to vote on the two proposed measures in a session on July 31.
If the legislative proposals are ultimately approved by voters, New Jersey’s new bail system would be implemented in 2017. The changes to the bail system at that time would be profound, drastically altering the ways in which the State approaches bail determinations and allowing for unprecedented judicial discretion when it comes to offering bail as an option. Anyone charged with a serious crime – from aggravated assault to marijuana possession – could be affected by the changes.
For additional information, see the NJ.com article entitled “With Deadline Approaching, Assembly Leaders Scramble for Votes to Get Bail Changes on the Ballot.”
If you are facing assault charges or drug possession charges in New Jersey, contact Morristown NJ criminal defense attorney Travis J. Tormey for a free consultation about your case.