After being charged with aggravated assault and robbery in Burlington County, a pregnant woman was released from prison pending her trial in Superior Court in Mount Holly. Burlington County prosecutors appealed the decision and an Appellate panel recently sided with the prosecution, ordering the woman back to pre-trial detention.
This case involves 20-year-old Imani Williams, who was charged with aggravated assault and robbery after allegedly attacking and robbing a female victim in June. Williams is accused of jumping the woman from behind, punching and kicking her, and stealing cash from her handbag. During a pretrial detention hearing in Burlington County Superior Court, a judge ordered Williams to be released pending her trial.
The circumstances of this case are unique, as Williams was 8 weeks pregnant when the judge made the decision. Williams reportedly has a criminal history and several instances where she failed to appear in court. She argued for her release based on the fact that she is pregnant and has a full-time job. The judge ordered her conditional release, subject to a curfew and regular reporting in person.
Shortly thereafter, the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office appealed the decision, arguing that Williams may be prone to violence and failure to appear based of her history. Using the new assessment scales under New Jersey’s new bail reform system, Williams scored high for new criminal activity and failure to appear.
On Friday, a three-judge appellate panel ruled in favor of the prosecution’s arguments. In its decision, the appellate court explained that Williams’ pregnancy was given “undue weight” during her pretrial detention determination. They went on to say:
“Pregnancy, like any other medical condition, is only considered for its impact on the risk of a defendant posing a danger to the community, obstructing justice or failing to appear in court…Although the trial judge here properly considered several of the listed applicable factors, he elevated defendant’s medical condition of pregnancy above all of the other pertinent factors, based on his unfounded speculation that her pregnancy might cause ‘issues’ to the correctional facility.”
The court did note that in certain cases, a defendant’s pregnancy may have a more significant influence on her health or ability to appear in court . For example, a high-risk pregnancy may be considered a special circumstance. However, in this case, the mere fact that Williams is pregnant does not preclude her from being subject to the same risk assessment scale as any other defendant facing charges for violent crimes.
Cherry Hill Criminal Defense Lawyers
If you have been charged with aggravated assault, robbery, or another violent crime in Cherry Hill or elsewhere in Camden County, the highly experienced criminal defense lawyers at our criminal defense law firm are dedicated to defending your innocence. Our attorneys have the knowledge and skill to combat your charges and we have been successfully representing clients in courts throughout South Jersey for years. Contact us anytime for a free consultation about your case.
For additional information regarding this case, access the following article: Pregnancy isn’t a get out of jail free card, court rules