The state of New Jersey has decided they are and has completely revamped their bail system. The change is so dramatic that in the first four weeks of January, out of 3,382 cases, bail was only required three times and 283 defendants were held with no bond. (New York Times). That means that less than 9% were not given bail at all and less than 1% were required to post a bail. The other 90% were released on conditions, but without posting any money. One of the first things I hear from a client or their family is “Can you get their bond reduced?”, because sitting in jail until a case is resolved can ruin your life. Now the response I generally hear is “Well they should not have committed a crime.”, but the problem is we are assuming they did commit a crime.
The question becomes, should the amount of money you can pull together decide whether you are free while your case is pending? Lets say you are walking to your car one night and you accidentally bump shoulders with someone walking past you and that person becomes angry and starts a fight with you. By skill or luck you are able to defend yourself from the attack, but in the process you cause serious injury to the other person. You could be arrested and charged with Assault 2nd, if the police do not believe you were defending yourself. You could be looking at thousands of dollars in bail and if you cannot afford that, you could be sitting in jail for 6-12 months waiting for a trial, even though you have a great self defense claim. If that same person was wealthy, they would be able to get out of jail and continue their life, while waiting on trial.
The counter argument to these changes is that we are letting dangerous people back out into society. The problem with that is under our current system, people accused of crimes are allowed back out, as long as they have the money to post bail. I will be very interested to see how the State of New Jersey handles theses issues. I know how frustrating it is to have a client sitting in jail, only because their friends and family cannot afford a $3,000.00 bail.