Contempt Charges for a Violation of Pre-Trial Release Under the Criminal Justice Reform Act
State v. McCray:
Submitted by New Jersey Criminal Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark
In consolidated cases, defendants appealed from the judgments of the appellate division reversing the orders of the trial court in defendants’ cases. In April 2017, defendant McCray was arrested and charged with second-degree robbery. A week later, the trial court released McCray subject to certain nonmonetary conditions, including that he “not commit any offense during the period of release.” In August 2017, McCray was charged with various theft offenses for allegedly stealing a wallet and then making fraudulent purchases. A grand jury indicted McCray for fourth-degree contempt for violating the trial court’s order of pretrial release. However, the trial court dismissed the contempt indictment, ruling that the Criminal Justice Reform Act did not provide for contempt prosecutions.
On July 10, 2018, defendant Gabourel was arrested and charged with possession with intent to distribute and released with conditions including a 6pm curfew. Gabourel was arrested when officers found him on a street corner at 8:09 p.m. The officers found three Percocet pills in his pocket. Gabourel was charged with fourth degree contempt for disobeying the trial court’s release order and violating the curfew condition, and with possession of Percocet. After a hearing, the trial judge concluded, however, that the State may not prosecute a noncriminal violation of a term or condition of a pretrial release order by way of contempt. The appellate division reversed the trial court’s orders in both cases.
On appeal to the New Jersey Supreme Court, the issue was whether the State can prosecute contempt charges for a violation of a condition of pretrial release under the Criminal Justice Reform Act (CJRA). The Supreme Court reversed the appellate division and reinstated the trial court’s orders. The court ruled that, in the CJRA, the legislature did not intend to authorize criminal contempt charges for violating pretrial release conditions. Specifically, the court noted that the legislature deleted language authorizing criminal contempt for pretrial release violations from the original drafts of the CJRA before passing a final version without such language. The court held that allowing criminal contempt charges for pretrial release violations undermined the purposes of the CJRA. However, the court noted that the CJRA did not modify existing law for no-contact orders and held that violating a no-contact order, even if part of a pretrial release order, could still serve as the basis for criminal contempt charges. Therefore, the Supreme Court of New Jersey reinstated the orders of the trial court dismissing the contempt charges against both defendants.
At Hark & Hark, we represent clients for appeals in Superior Court and in the Supreme Court of New Jersey for issues like the present case pertaining to pre-trial release and whether the State can prosecute contempt charges for a violation of a condition of pre-trial release under the Criminal Justice Reform Act. We work hard to ensure that our clients receive exceptional representation so that they receive the most favorable outcome as a result.
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