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Arrested in NJ, How Long can I be Kept in Jail?

Arrested in NJ, How Long can I be Kept in Jail?

Cherry Hill Criminal Defense Lawyers Explain Potential Length of Jail Time from Arrest to Bail Hearing

The bail system in New Jersey has recently undergone extensive reform. Before January 1, 2017, every defendant charged with a criminal offense was eligible—pursuant to the state constitution and the New Jersey Rules of Court—to request cash bail. A judge would determine a bail amount, and if the defendant could pay or post a bond, she or he would be released prior to trial. If the defendant could not pay, she or he would be held in custody.

All this changed after January 1, 2017, on which date the New Jersey Bail Reform and Speedy Trial Act took effect and eliminated the cash bail system. Judges now determine whether a defendant will be held in custody prior to trial based on a public safety assessment and detention hearing process. The following examines the potential length of time that a defendant may be detained from arrest through a detention hearing under this new system.

Summons Complaints Generally Do Not Result in Pretrial Detention

The first major factor in determining how long a defendant will stay in custody after an arrest is a prosecutor’s determination of whether the defendant should be charged with a criminal offense through a “summons complaint” or a “warrant complaint.”

A summons complaint does not result in pretrial incarceration. A summons complaint charges a defendant with committing a crime, but it permits the defendant’s release from custody on the condition that the defendant return to court at a later date. Summons complaints are generally filed in connection with “disorderly person,” or misdemeanor, offenses, e.g. vandalism (criminal mischief), petty theft, drug paraphernalia, and similar lower-level offenses.

Warrant Complaints Lead to 48 Hours of Detention Prior to a Detention Hearing

A warrant complaint, on the other hand, is a criminal charge that authorizes the police to arrest the charged defendant to secure that defendant’s presence at trial. Prosecutors generally charge defendants who commit serious crimes—called indictable crimes in New Jersey and felonies in most other jurisdictions—with warrant complaints. Crimes like murder, aggravated assault, robbery, sexual assault, burglary, and similarly serious indictable offenses result in warrant complaints.

The warrant complaint process begins with a defendant’s arrest and fingerprinting, after which police generally begin running an automated pretrial risk assessment program that will produce a preliminary public safety assessment for prosecutors to review. Prosecutors will use this preliminary assessment to help them determine whether to issue a summons complaint or a warrant complaint.

If a prosecutor determines that the defendant should be charged with a warrant complaint, and if a judicial officer signs off on the warrant complaint, a defendant can be held for up to 48 hours in county jail while pretrial services reviews and refines the risk assessment produced by the automated system, after which a New Jersey court will hold a detention hearing.

Detention Hearing: Getting out of Jail before Court in Camden County

Courts typically hold a detention hearing within 24 hours of arrest, and they must hold a hearing within 48 hours of arrest. Prosecutors and the defendant or the defense attorney can argue at the hearing whether the defendant should remain in custody prior to trial. The court will consider the factors discussed above in connection with the pretrial risk assessment to decide whether to keep the defendant incarcerated. If the court decides to release a defendant, the court may impose certain conditions for that release—these conditions often require the defendant to promise not to commit illegal acts while awaiting trial, stay in a geographic area, and/or avoiding contact with witnesses and victims.

Don’t Handle Your Bail Hearing Alone, Call Attorneys Defending Your Criminal Charges in NJ

Being held in jail for a few hours or days after your arrest is never a good experience. But staying in jail for the duration of your case is even worse. If you’ve been arrested in Burlington County, Gloucester County, Camden County, or nearby areas in New Jersey, the best thing you can do is contact an experienced criminal attorney for help with your case. Whether you have an upcoming detention hearing or you need a defense strategy to confront the allegations you’re facing, William Fay can help. Call 609-832-3202 now to speak with a member of our team in a free consultation or arrange an appointment at our local office by filling out our form.

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