How Pretrial Monitoring Works in New Jersey
Upon the arrest of a suspect, the police take fingerprints, check the criminal history, and issue either a summons or warrant. With a summons, the accused typically goes free until the next hearing. They go to jail with a warrant, after which pretrial services recommends whether a defendant stays in jail until trial or goes home with or without conditions. Pretrial services recommendations consider several factors in assessing whether the defendant can leave jail without risk of flight and public safety. After interviewing the detained defendant and running a Public Safety Assessment (PSA), the pretrial services division prepares its recommendations for the court’s consideration. Relevant factors include the defendant’s criminal past, history of failures to appear in court, other pending charges, and current charges. A defendant accused of some crimes, like murder, must be detained pending the resolution of their case. Other defendants facing charges for violent crimes or weapons charges are more likely to get a recommendation of detention.
Pretrial Monitoring and Oversight of Defendants with Pending Criminal Charges in NJ
The PSA calculates risk on a scale of 1 to 6 as to the likelihood of the defendant committing new crimes and the possibility of a failure to appear in court if released. A long criminal history and prior violent crimes tend toward a higher risk for non-appearance at future hearings, closer to a 6. Moreover, the more failures to appear on the record, the higher the percentage of risk that the defendant will not appear in future hearings. However, regardless of the PSA score, the ultimate decision for release or detention is with the judge overseeing the criminal case.
An initial hearing occurs within 24 to 48 hours of arrest. At this stage of the case, the prosecutor may move the court to detain the accused. The factors that form the basis of a motion for detain are the accused’s criminal history, risk of skipping out on future hearings, public safety, risk of judicial obstruction, and nature of the criminal charges. The prosecution must prove at a detention hearing shortly after the initial hearing that probable cause suggests the defendant committed the accused crimes and that no release conditions can protect public safety or assure the defendant’s future court appearances. Sometimes, the outcome of a detention hearing involves the defendant being released on conditions, which may include pretrial monitoring.
Since New Jersey’s bail reform, judges typically release defendants until their next court appearance. However, some defendants pose risks of fleeing, interfering with the judicial process by intimidating witnesses or victims, or committing further crimes outside jail. A court may release a defendant with conditions requiring pretrial monitoring to reduce the community and judicial procedural risks. In that way, a defendant awaiting trial is not incarcerated before a guilt or innocence determination, and the state can safeguard the judicial process.
The Role of Pretrial Monitoring Services
The role of pretrial monitoring services is to enable defendants awaiting a criminal adjudication in superior court to attend their court hearings, including hearing date reminders, and to maintain public safety by reporting illegal activity to the court . Keeping track of a defendant’s whereabouts and activities ensures defendants are calling in or writing to the appropriate people in pretrial services who report on a defendant’s arrests, violations, or failures to appear at court hearings. In other words, they ensure a defendant’s compliance with court-ordered conditions for release pending trial through services and contacts.
Common Pretrial Monitoring Conditions
In some cases, a court may order a defendant to attend counseling or drug rehabilitation as a condition of release. Pretrial monitoring services facilitate such resources to the defendant, including the location and enrollment details, so the defendant gets what they need to satisfy court conditions. As part of their duties, pretrial officers may call or speak to the defendant at scheduled times and contact those in the defendant’s life sphere, such as family members, employers, counselors, and substance abuse treatment facilitators. They may do home visits and help defendants obtain jobs, healthcare, psychological treatment, and legal representation. And if there are other conditions of release, the division helps the defendant adhere to those.
One common condition of release is electronic monitoring. A defendant may wear an electronic bracelet that reports their location 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So, for a defendant restricted from leaving the local area, the monitoring device picks up sites outside the permitted local area for pretrial monitoring services. However, some conditions are more restrictive.
Fundamentals of Home Detention
Home confinement can range from home imprisonment to home lockdown, except for work, school, court appearances, treatment, religious observance, and legal appointments. Home confinement is elastic, depending on the defendant’s circumstances, which is an advantage for this most restrictive condition and a workable medium between releasing a higher-risk defendant with no conditions and incarceration. Thus, those with the potential to be a public safety risk stay incarcerated without bars, which is also a reasonable alternative to post-sentence incarceration in specific cases and stiffer conditions when a defendant violates pretrial release conditions.
A court may categorize home detention as strict, with limited exceptions, or with electronic monitoring. Once a defendant is deemed suitable for home confinement (accessible and stable home, equipped to charge monitoring equipment, with a cell phone that can video), they must remain confined except for the approved medical, legal, educational, and religious appointments or get a court order to leave for other reasons in limited exceptions home confinement. Strict home confinement leaves little room for exceptions. A defendant must inform law enforcement and get court permission before leaving home or risk a bench warrant being issued for their arrest.
Pretrial Monitoring Compliance vs. Violations
This pretrial monitoring services division notes a defendant’s compliance with all court-ordered conditions until release, dismissal, or acquittal. Once requirements are no longer necessary, the division petitions the court to remove them or recommend a modification or revocation of conditions and detention. They also report violations the court can determine are serious enough to end a conditional release, detain the defendant, impose stricter requirements, or otherwise handle the case. If you are conditionally released from jail but violate the conditions of your release, you will need the services of a qualified criminal defense attorney.
How an Attorney can Help with Pretrial Monitoring Determinations in NJ
It is critical to have an experienced criminal defense attorney representing you immediately after your arrest to secure your release at the detention hearing, argue against stiffer conditions, minimize the restrictions and severity of conditions, and present the most compelling case for the least restrictive release requirements possible. Having a skilled lawyer who can prepare and argue all of the reasons why you are minimal to no-risk candidate for release is a significant advantage when you want to avoid harsher pretrial release conditions and pretrial monitoring, or to secure pretrial monitoring as an advantageous alternative to being kept in jail pending the resolution of your case. Our criminal defense attorneys are skilled in pretrial detention practice and we zealously pursue the optimal outcome based on our clients’ individual circumstances. Our attorneys defend clients across the state of New Jersey, including in Bergen County, Essex County, Union County, Hudson County, Ocean County, and Passaic County. Contact us at (201)-556-1570 to speak with a criminal defense lawyer on our team at The Tormey Law Firm when you face criminal charges and pretrial services monitoring anywhere in New Jersey. We are pleased to provide you with a free consultation.