On Jan. 1, 2017, NJ shifted from a system that relies principally on setting monetary bail as a condition of release to a risk-based system that is more objective, and thus fairer to defendants because it is unrelated to their ability to pay monetary bail. The statute also sets deadlines for the timely filing of an indictment and the disposition of criminal charges for incarcerated defendants.
The new system will permit pretrial release for low risk offenders and will allow judges to require non-monetary conditions to release depending on risk, such as supervision by a new pre-trial services staff, adherence to a curfew, and in some instances, the use of ankle bracelets.
For high risk offenders, pretrial release can be denied without the option for bail. The new system should correct fundamental issues such as jail overcrowding, the disparate impact of bail on minorities and the poor, and improve public safety by disallowing the pretrial release of high risk offenders.
The bail reform bill also comes with strict time requirements. Most notably, pretrial hearings on risk assessment and release must be held within 48 hours of arrest. The 48-hour requirement will result in court staff and prosecutors holding hearings over the weekend.
If a prosecutor wants to detain a suspect without bail, the prosecutor will have three days after the risk assessment hearing to hold a plenary hearing where the State must prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that the suspect should be detained pending trial. These defendants are then required to be tried within 180 days of the indictment.