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What Is a Detention Hearing?

What’s My Bail?

Even if you've devoured every episode of Law & Order ever made, there's a legal evolution in New Jersey that might have slipped under your radar. Since the inception of the Criminal Justice Reform Act (CJRA) in January 2017, the classic "Bail is set at..." declaration is a relic of the past in the Garden State.

Shifting Away from Cash Bail

In the pre-CJRA days, individuals facing charges in New Jersey attended bail hearings, where judges determined bail amounts based on financial factors. This system, relying on financial incentives to secure court appearances, often involved family, friends, or bail bond companies fronting the bail money.

Public Safety Assessment (PSA)

Fast forward to the present, and the cash bail system has been replaced by a risk-centric approach. The CJRA assesses individuals based on their likelihood of showing up in court, their potential for committing new offenses, and the risk of committing violent acts if released. This evaluation produces a Public Safety Assessment (PSA), a succinct document offering recommendations for release conditions.

Central Judicial Processing

Following an arrest on a complaint-warrant, a defendant is taken by the arresting authority to the county jail, where virtual first appearance unfolds within 48 hours. Before this session, known as Central Judicial Processing (CJP) the PSA is provided to the prosecutor and defense attorney, and the prosecutor decides whether to file a motion for detention or opt for release with specified conditions. If no motion is initiated, the individual receives guidance on complying with Pre-Trial Services (“PTS”) to address pending charges from home.

Detention Hearing Timeline and Hurdles

The decision to file a detention motion rests with the prosecutor's discretion, leading to a Detention Hearing scheduled within 3 business days in Superior Court. However, the CJRA allows for adjournments, with up to 3 business days for the prosecutor and up to 5 business days for the defense, potentially elongating the process.

Two-Phased Detention Hearing

For all but the most serious offenses (as in, those for which a life sentence is possible) the default presumption is release from jail during pending matters. The Detention Hearing comprises two phases: probable cause and detention. The prosecutor presents exhibits to establish probable cause, and if successful, the detention phase necessitates clear and convincing evidence that no release conditions can reasonably ensure the defendant's appearance and community safety.

CJRA Deadlines and Objectives

The CJRA strives to prevent prolonged detention for minor charges due to financial constraints and ensures a timely resolution of cases. The law mandates that within 90 days of a detention decision, prosecutors must either indict or release the individual and within 180 days of the indictment date, the prosecutor must be ready for trial or release the individual.

In summary, New Jersey's relatively recent law on pre-trial detention, as outlined by the CJRA, presents challenges distinct from the antiquated cash bail system. One of the major ways it differs is that in theory, under the old system, a person could file bail motions as often as desired. Under the risk assessment system, the determination in the detention hearing is essentially a final one, and can only be revisited if the defendant can meet a specific standard showing why. The one-shot-only nature of detention hearings makes it that much more important to secure legal representation well-versed in these particular arguments. For immediate assistance, Contact Forrester Law Firm or call 609-613-1513 (24/7). Don't hesitate to secure the right legal support for your case.

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