Submitted by New Jersey Criminal Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.
The Supreme Court of New Jersey has recently clarified what evidence the State has to provide when arguing for a defendant to be detained before trial. The new Criminal Justice Reform Act effective January 1, 2017, allows for pretrial detention of defendants who present a serious risk of danger, flight or obstruction that no combination of release conditions would be adequate.
When a prosecutor applies for pretrial detention, the prosecutor must establish probable cause that the eligible defendant committed the predicate offense. A rebuttable presumption of detention exists when the court finds probable cause for murder or a crime subject to life imprisonment. A defendant can rebut a presumption of detention by a preponderance of the evidence. If the court orders a detention, the decision must be supported by clear and convincing evidence.
At a pretrial detention hearing the court may take into account
- the nature and circumstances of the offense
- the weight of the evidence
- the defendant’s history and characteristics
- the danger posed by release
- the risk of obstruction of justice, and
- the release recommendation of the Public Safety Assessment (PSA).
The PSA is a computer-generated risk assessment which makes a recommendation of release based off numerous factors including the likelihood the same defendant will commit the crime again.
Prior to a pretrial detention hearing, a defendant must be provided all statements or reports in the prosecutor’s possession relating to the pretrial detention application including all exculpatory evidence.
In the case recently decided by the Supreme Court, the defendant was arrested for shooting and killing a victim. Surveillance cameras allegedly recorded the incident and two eyewitnesses gave statements. The PSA recommended the defendant not be released.
The Court ruled any initial police reports about the witnesses must be disclosed, and the prosecution must provide copies of statements or reports of the two eyewitnesses. When an eyewitness makes an identification, the State must document and process and record certain details. That information should be disclosed along with copies of any photos used for identification purposes. The Court further ruled that the surveillance videos were not required to be given to the defendant, however, according to the new rules.
In summary, the new Criminal Justice Reform Act is complicated, but an experienced attorney can inform you of your rights to evidence if you are ever considered for pretrial detention.