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What happens at a pre-trial detention hearing?

New Jersey is undergoing an intense movement toward criminal justice reform, and the New Jersey Bail Reform Act changes the way pre-trial detention works. Bail reform efforts place the emphasis on a variety of risk factors for holding an individual until trial rather than focusing on monetary factors.

For those facing trial, the prosecutor must file a motion with the court seeking pre-trial detention for the individual.

Detention decisions

When a criminal defendant appears for a detention hearing, both the defense and the prosecution are able to argue before the courts for the release or detention of the individual. Though the arguments by either side carry significant weight, the court will use evidence-supporting, risk assessment tools to determine the fate of the individual. According to the Bail Reform Act, monetary bail is only to be set if there are no other conditions of release that assure the defendant will appear in court and will not present a danger to the community or any person.

Detention determination

When a judge evaluates the opportunity for either release or detention, a consideration of a Pretrial Safety Assessment score for the defendant and evaluation of the Decision Making Framework recommendations will take place. The PSA score is a risk assessment that looks at failure to appear potential, criminal history, nature of the offense and violent offense considerations.

A judge may release a defendant on certain conditions, on the individual’s own recognizance or issue a detention order. It is important to have legal counsel when facing a pre-trial detention hearing.

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