In response to concerns that New Jersey’s criminal justice reform efforts have gone too far and jeopardize public safety, Senator Robert Singer will introduce legislation giving courts greater discretion to determine if and under what conditions defendants accused of violent crimes should be released on bail.
“Like other states, New Jersey rushed to implement criminal justice reforms that let most defendants remain free while awaiting trial,” said Singer (R-30). “Although the reforms were well-intentioned, we’ve seen cases around the nation where people accused of violent acts have been set free only to commit horrific new crimes. If we don’t restore some sanity to our law, it’s only a matter of time before that happens in New Jersey with tragic consequences.”
In a well-publicized attack before Thanksgiving in Waukesha, Wisconsin, a man with a long criminal history drove his SUV through a parade at high speeds killing six people and injuring more than 60. He had been released from jail days earlier after being arrested for physically assaulting his girlfriend and attempting to run her over with the same SUV.
Singer’s new legislation would prevent a similar occurrence in New Jersey by clarifying the court’s ability to impose any combination of monetary bail and non-monetary conditions which would reasonably assure the defendant’s appearance in court, protect the safety of any other person or the community, or prevent the person from obstructing the criminal justice process.
Additionally, the bill would establish a rebuttable presumption that persons charged with certain violent crimes be detained prior to trial.
Some of the crimes that may require pretrial detention include: murder; aggravated manslaughter or manslaughter; vehicular homicide; aggravated assault; disarming a law enforcement officer; kidnapping; aggravated sexual assault; certain sexual assaults; robbery; carjacking; aggravated arson; burglary; extortion; terrorism; and firearms trafficking.
A more comprehensive list is included in the bill.
“What happened in Waukesha could happen here, all because the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of keeping our jails empty,” added Singer. “There’s mounting proof that the revolving door that lets violent criminals out of detention and onto our streets needs to be locked.”