NJ Supreme Court Committee Seeks Sweeping Changes to State Bail System

NJ Bail SystemThe criminal defense attorneys at Lubiner, Schmidt & Palumbo, LLC have been following with great interest the findings of a New Jersey Supreme Court committee, chaired by Chief Justice Stuart Rabner. The findings recommended the state’s bail system be redesigned to more accurately assess risks posed by defendants.

The committee said in its report that the current bail system is skewed toward defendants who have the financial means to post bond and does not fairly assess whether those defendants pose a danger to the community or are flight risks. Conversely, those who may not be able to afford relatively small bail and pose little risk, stay in jail while awaiting trial.

The judicial committee recommended that risk assessment be implemented for every defendant — regardless of his or her ability to pay bond. The report said that it would make the system fairer by eliminating the “over-reliance upon money in determining who remains incarcerated while awaiting trial.”

A study published in 2013 found that nearly 12 percent of New Jersey’s jail population was in custody because they could not post bail of $2,500 or less. The committee suggested that judges be given the power to impose non-monetary terms for release, such as drug treatment or house arrest that more accurately correspond to risk.

It has been estimated that the proposed changes to the current bail system would cut in half the number of defendants who remain in jail while awaiting trial. The corresponding savings, as envisioned by the committee, would pay for the funding of a pre-trial services agency that would be charged with providing risk assessments and monitoring compliance with the court conditions for release.

In cases where a judge determines that a defendant is too dangerous for release, they would be given the latitude to order the defendant to remain imprisoned before trial, regardless of his or her ability to post bail.

The committee emphasized these proposed changes will have to be taken up by the legislature and would require a constitutional amendment to be implemented.

Lubiner, Schmidt & Palumbo in New Jersey will continue to monitor the progress of these proposed changes to the bail system. If you have questions about your case and your bail, we can help. Call us at (888) 847-2529 or contact us online to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys.