The idea behind bail is that people should generally not have to remain incarcerated without having first been convicted. Reality differs from theory, however, because the legal system recognizes that the public welfare may be best served by keeping potentially violent criminals off the streets while the wheels of justice turn very slowly. That’s why judges have a great deal of leeway to deny bail when a defendant has been charged with a violent crime, poses a safety risk to the community, or poses a flight risk prior to trial.
Bail Reform in New Jersey
Prior to January 1, 2017, bail in New Jersey worked very differently than it does now. That’s because NJ lawmakers recently passed legislation that changed the state’s bail process. Before the law was passed, anyone charged with a criminal offense not punishable by death in New Jersey was eligible for release on bail – and since NJ no longer imposes the death penalty, this meant that all criminal defendants were eligible for bail. However, things have changed considerably with the passage of the new bail reform law. Now New Jersey judges are able to deny bail to defendants based on a number of factors, such as the nature of the current charges and whether the defendant has prior convictions for violent crimes. The bail reform law also removes bail for low-risk individuals and allows them to be released without needing to go through the process of posting bail.
The new bail requirements could benefit low-income individuals charged with non-violent crimes because they will no longer have to languish behind bars while waiting for their cases to be resolved. Instead of needing to raise 10-percent of the bond amount in cash to cover their bail, these defendants are now far more likely to be released on their own recognizance.
However, a major problem with the new bail requirements is that they could make it extremely difficult for individuals accused of committing violent crimes to contest the charges. That’s because NJ prosecutors could have enhanced leverage to use against defendants who have been denied bail altogether. “Either plead guilty to a lesser charge or stay in prison for months before trial,” prosecutors can now tell defendants charged with violent offenses like aggravated assault or armed robbery.
If you have been charged with a violent crime in Atlantic County, NJ, it is imperative that you have a qualified criminal defense lawyer on your side early in the legal process. The experienced, aggressive criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of John W. Tumelty can help you fight your criminal charges and make sure that you don’t remain behind bars while awaiting resolution of the case. Contact us immediately to schedule a consultation.