Prior to Jan. 1, 2017, every defendant had a constitutional right to pre-conviction bail. During that time, judges would set a money bail amount for each pending case a defendant had. The individual could post bail in the form of cash or bond, and if they were unable to pay it, would wait in jail for their trial. The former money bail system is explained in greater detail here. The Bail Reform and Speedy Trial Act changed this system when it went into effect on Jan. 1, 2017.
The Bail Reform and Speed Trial Act
In 2014, with support from Gov. Chris Christie, state lawmakers began drafting the bill (S946/A1910) that would become the Bail Reform and Speed Trial Act. After years of work from New Jersey legislators, the law went into effect Jan. 1, 2017. Now, the determination as to whether someone is detained in the County Jail prior to the disposition of their case is handled much differently.
Summons vs. Warrant
Bail Reform now calls for an initial decision to be made on whether to charge a defendant on a Summons or Warrant. Now, when a law enforcement officer makes an arrest for any indictable crime, or for a disorderly persons offense involving domestic violence, the officer is required to contact a County Prosecutor. A complaint-summons is commonly referred to as a CDR-1 and a complaint-warrant is commonly referred to as a CDR-2.
The most significant difference between the two (2) charging documents is that when a complaint-warrant is issued the defendant must be taken to the County Jail, where he or she will be held for up to 48 hours. N.J.S.A. 2A:162-16(a). During that period of statutorily-mandated confinement, the pretrial services program has an opportunity to prepare a recommendation to the court as to appropriate conditions of pretrial release and the level of monitoring the court should impose at the time of the defendant’s first appearance.
Summons vs. Warrant Charging Decision
The determination as to whether a charge is issued on a complaint or a warrant is crucial to any defendant being charged. As to warrants, there are mandatory warrant charges and presumptive warrant charges. Except in cases involving specified serious charges that must be charged by complaint-warrant as required by Rule 3:3-1(e), the decision whether to issue a complaint-summons or to apply to a court for a complaint-warrant is informed by the results generated by the automated pretrial risk-assessment process approved by the Administrative Director of the Courts pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:162-25(c).
Automated Pretrial Risk Assessment Process
The automated pretrial risk-assessment process is initiated by police after the defendant’s fingerprints have been taken by Live Scan at a police station. A preliminary public safety assessment (“Prelim-PSA”) is made available to police and prosecutors before the complaint-summons versus complaint-warrant decision is made. If a complaint-warrant is approved by a judge or other judicial officer, the risk assessment process will be completed by the pretrial services program while the defendant is detained for up to 48 hours at the county jail.
The term “automated pretrial risk assessment” generally refers to the preliminary pretrial risk-assessment process done by a computer program administered by the Administrative Office of the Courts and initiated by police before a defendant is transported to a county jail, where the assessment results will be reviewed and may be modified based on additional information input by the pretrial services program.
The automated pretrial risk-assessment process accounts for the general nature of the present offense (e.g., whether it involves violence) and certain electronically-stored criminal case and court history data that documents the defendant’s previous involvement, if any, in the adult criminal justice system. This automated process produces a Public Safety Assessment (PSA) that provides three pretrial risk indicators: a six-point “failure-to-appear” (FTA) scale, a six-point “new criminal activity” (NCA) scale, and a “new violent criminal activity” (NVCA) “flag.” The AOC’s pretrial services program will monitor released defendants to address the risks identified through the PSA. Thus, while the PSA measures risks, the AOC’s “Decision Making Framework” is designed to manage the identified risks by recommending the appropriate level of release conditions and monitoring.
Mandatory Warrant Cases
Enumerated offenses: There are certain offenses that require criminal charges to be issued on a complaint-warrant. Pursuant to New Jersey Court Rule 3:3-1(e), a law enforcement agency shall apply for a complaint-warrant if there is probable cause to believe that the defendant committed:
- Murder (N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3);
- Aggravated manslaughter (N.J.S.A. 2C:11-4(a));
- Manslaughter (N.J.S.A. 2C:11-4(b));
- Aggravated sexual assault (N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2(a));
- Sexual assault (N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2(b) or (c));
- Robbery (N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1);
- Carjacking (N.J.S.A. 2C:15-2);
- Escape (N.J.S.A. 2C:29-5(a)); or
- An attempt to commit any of the foregoing crimes.
Extradition cases: In addition, if a defendant has been extradited from another state for the current New Jersey charge, the complaint will be issued on a warrant.