At a detention hearing, a judge determines whether or not a criminal defendant should be held in jail while they await their trial and the final outcome in their case. Since the implementation of Criminal Justice Reform in New Jersey, the decision to detain a defendant is based on an individual risk assessment, which measures a defendant’s likelihood to appear in court, threat to public safety, and risk of obstructing justice. If you or a loved one has an upcoming detention hearing in New Jersey, it is essential to consult a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer who can help you prepare. Our attorneys represent clients at detention hearings in Hudson County and throughout New Jersey. Call (201) 793-8018 or contact us online today for an absolutely free consultation. The following is a brief overview of what to expect at a detention hearing in New Jersey.
When Does a Detention Hearing Occur?
A detention hearing after the issuance of warrant in New Jersey. Notably, not all criminal complaints involve a warrant. If you are issued a summons for a criminal offense in New Jersey, you will be released on your own recognizance pending your first appearance in court. On the other hand, if you are subject to a warrant based on a criminal complaint, you will be arrested and taken to the county jail. You must appear before a judge within 24 to 48 hours of your arrest. This first appearance usually serves as your detention hearing. At the hearing, the prosecutor’s office must file a motion for detention. Otherwise, the judge will release you on your own recognizance or release you on certain conditions. It is critical to have an aggressive criminal defense attorney representing you during these proceedings, as they can impact your life for weeks or even months to come.
What Will the Prosecution Argue?
At the detention hearing, the prosecution will argue its case for why you should be detained. You can only be detained if the judge is clearly convinced that no condition or set of conditions would reasonably assure that you will:
- Appear in court;
- Not be a threat to public safety; and
- Not obstruct the criminal justice process
Depending on what crime you are accused of committing, there is either a rebuttable presumption of detention or rebuttable presumption against detention. For example, a charge of murder or a crime with a life sentence has a presumption of detention. If a defendant is charged with murder or a crime with a life sentence, the burden will be on the defendant’s lawyer to rebut the presumption of detention. If the defendant is being charged with any other crime, the prosecution must clearly convince the court that, based on the defendant’s individual risk assessment, the defendant is at serious risk of not appearing in court, endangering public safety, or obstructing justice.
What Factors Are Included in the Risk Assessment?
Factors considered in the risk assessment that influence the outcome of a detention hearing in New Jersey include:
- Age at current arrest
- Current violent offense
- Other pending charges when arrested for current offense
- Prior convictions for disorderly persons offenses
- Prior indictable convictions
- Prior violent convictions
- Prior failure to appear at pre-disposition court date in the last two years
- Prior failure to appear at a pre-disposition court date more than two years ago
- Prior sentences of 14 days or more
These factors are used in a formula to determine a defendant’s Public Safety Assessment (PSA) score in the three relevant categories: Failure to Appear, New Criminal Activity, and New Violent Criminal Activity.
What Can a Criminal Defense Attorney Do at a Detention Hearing?
As stated above, if the charge against the defendant is for murder or another crime carrying a life sentence, the burden is on the defense to rebut the presumption of detention. Where there is a presumption against detention, the defense will have an opportunity to counter the argument made by the prosecution.
To do so, an experienced criminal defense attorney will highlight where the defendant’s past indicates low risk for failure to appear, endangerment to public safety, or obstruction of justice. Your lawyer can present evidence of good character, positive family and community ties, positive employment and education history, positive involvement in the community, and healthy physical and mental condition.
Where you have negative risk factors, a skilled attorney will recommend release conditions that lessen the risk that you will fail to appear, be a threat to public safety, or obstruct justice. They may also argue that the charge against you lacks probable cause by challenging facts or legal arguments made by the prosecution. If a charge lacks probable cause, the charge must be dismissed and you cannot be further detained.
How Will the Judge Decide?
In determining whether to hold a defendant in detention, the judge will consider the defendant’s PSA score, the recommendation provided by New Jersey’s Decision Making Framework (DMF), the arguments made by the prosecution and defense counsel, and recommendations for conditions of release.
If the judge determines that certain conditions will reasonably assure that the defendant will appear in court, not be a threat to public safety, and not obstruct the criminal justice process, or that the charge against the defendant lacks probable cause, then the defendant cannot be held in detention.
Hudson County NJ Detention Hearing Lawyers
If you or a loved one has an upcoming detention hearing, our Hudson County criminal defense attorneys can help. We defend clients at detention hearings in Jersey City and throughout New Jersey, so contact us now at (201) 793-8018 to find out how we can help you.