Criminal Justice Reform or “Bail Reform”

What is the difference between a summon-complaint versus a warrant-complaint?

If you were arrested by the police in any municipality in New Jersey for either a disorderly person's offense or an indictable charge, the police can charge you either by a warrant complaint or a summons complaint. If you are charged by a warrant complaint, you will be arrested and taken to the county jail pending an evaluation of your risk assessment score – also known as a Public Safety Assessment score. Depending on your score, the judge will issue conditions of release which you must comply with while your case is pending. For individuals arrested and charged with a complaint summons, the police will release them and issue a court date either in municipal or superior court, depending on the nature of the charge.

I am in jail and the Public Safety Assessment was done, now what? 

The state of New Jersey has up to 48 hours after the arrest to bring each arrestee in front of a judge. Typically, the State does not use all its 48 hours before bringing the arrestee before a judge. Even if your PSA score is at the lowest level, say a “1” for risk of flight and a “1” for danger to the community, the State has an absolute right to file a motion for detention at the arrestee's first appearance before a judge. Once a motion for detention has been filed, the arrestees are entitled to a detention hearing before a superior court judge within three days of the filing of the motion for detention. During those three days between filing and the hearing, the arrestee will remain in jail. When a motion for detention is filed, there is nothing any lawyer can do for the arrestee until the detention hearing is held.

What does the Public Safety Assessment score mean?

The public safety assessment (PSA) is a tool used by law enforcement and the criminal courts to determine an arrestee's risk of flight and dangerousness of that individual to the community. The tool spits out two numbers for each arrestee, each on a scale from one to six. The lower the number for each of the numbers, the more likely it is that there are a set of conditions of release that would satisfy three essential prongs: 1) risk of flight, 2) dangerousness, and 3) obstruction of the criminal justice process. The higher the number for each scale – i.e. the closer to six each of your scores is, the less likely it is that this arrestee will be released pending the ultimate resolution of his/her case.

I saw the judge and he gave me conditions of release, am I on probation?

No, while conditions of release can feel a bit like probation in that you must report to Pre-trial services, and sometimes you cannot have contact with certain persons or places while your case is open, but conditions of release are not probation. Probation is a sentence that a person can receive for a charge or charges. Conditions or release are merely monitoring of an individual while a case is open to making sure that the individual goes to all his court dates and does not obstruct the administration of law. That is, conditions or release were meant to eliminate a cash bail system and instead monitors persons to make sure they are present for their court dates while the case is pending.


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