Reopen the Pre-Trial Detention of a Defendant Due to a Material Change in Circumstances

State v. Pineiro:

Submitted by New Jersey Criminal Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark

This case arose out of an appeal by the State from the trial court’s grant of defendant’s motion to reopen his detention hearing and the order releasing defendant from detention pending disposition of his charges.

On February 9, 2020, Clifton police arrested and charged defendant with second-degree eluding, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2(b), and the disorderly persons offense of possession of marijuana, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10(a)(4). The State moved for defendant’s detention pending trial, arguing that defendant posed a flight risk based on the nature of his eluding charge and prior record; the State further argued that defendant’s prior record and current charges established that he posed a risk to public safety. The trial court found, by clear and convincing evidence, that no conditions of release would ensure defendant’s appearance in court and the safety of the community. Specifically, the trial court noted that defendant’s exposure to a 10-year prison sentence and his actions leading to his present charges demonstrated that he posed a flight risk.

Defendant subsequently filed a motion for reconsideration, which was denied by a different trial judge. Defendant then moved to reopen his detention hearing, arguing that he should be released from detention because his asthma put him at great risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. The trial court granted defendant’s release, noting defendant’s likelihood of contracting and suffering complications from COVID-19.

On appeal, the State contended that the court abused its discretion by reopening defendant’s detention hearing and by ordering his release. Defendant argued that his asthma condition and the COVID-19 pandemic constituted a material change in circumstances supporting the court’s reopening of the detention hearing and the court did not abuse its discretion by ordering his release with the conditions imposed.

The State was ordered to address what measures were available in county detention to accommodate defendant’s medical condition and reduce his risk of harm. The State explained current infection rates at the facility and measures taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The State further argued that the trial court abused its discretion in ordering defendant’s release. The appellate court found that the trial court failed to make findings supporting the decision to reopen defendant’s detention hearing, including whether the COVID-19 pandemic and defendant’s medical condition had a material bearing on whether conditions of release would reasonably assure defendant’s appearance in court and protect public safety. The appellate court vacated the trial court’s decision and remanded for further proceedings.

On remand, the appellate court noted that the trial court shall permit the parties to make supplemental submissions to address the current status of defendant’s medical condition, the circumstances in the jail, and any other matters pertinent to defendant’s motion; and the court shall hear additional arguments from counsel. The court shall determine and make findings as to whether defendant is entitled to reopen his detention hearing under N.J.S.A. 2A:162-19(f).

At Hark & Hark, we represent clients for appeals in Superior Court for issues like the present case pertaining to motions to reopen the pre-trial detention of a defendant due to a material change in circumstances. We work hard to ensure that our clients receive exceptional representation so that they receive the most favorable outcome as a result.

We offer payment plan options to clients financially incapable of providing full payment upfront. If you are facing a similar situation to that of the defendant in this case, please call us to discuss the matter. At Hark & Hark, we represent clients for any case in any county in New Jersey including Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Mercer, Ocean, and Salem counties.





Criminal Civil Lawyer

Jeffrey Hark is a New Jersey Civil and Criminal Lawyer.

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