What is the Standard for Appellate Review for a Court’s Decision to Detain Me Before Trial?

Submitted by New Jersey Criminal Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark

The statute explicitly confers upon defendants a right to appeal an order of pretrial detention “pursuant to the Rules of Court” N.J.S.A. 2A:162-18(c) and “shall be heard in an expedited manner.”

An appellate court “may find an abuse of discretion when a decision ‘rest[s] on an impermissible basis’ or was ‘based upon a consideration of irrelevant or inappropriate factors.'” Steele, supra, 430 N.J. Super. at 34-35 (quoting Flagg v. Essex Cty. Prosecutor, 171 N.J. 561, 571 (2002)). An appellate court can also discern an abuse of discretion when the trial court fails to take into consideration all relevant factors and when its decision reflects a clear error in judgment. State v. Baynes, 148 N.J. 434, 444 (1997).

Likewise, when the trial court renders a decision based upon a misconception of the law, that decision is not entitled to any particular deference and consequently will be reviewed de novo. See, e.g., State v. Stein, 225 N.J. 582, 593 (2016); State v. Williams, 441 N.J. Super. 266, 272 (App. Div. 2015).

A reviewing court generally will give no deference to a trial court decision that fails to “provide factual underpinnings and legal bases supporting [its] exercise of judicial discretion.” Clark v. Clark, 429 N.J. Super. 61, 72 (App. Div. 2012).

In summary, the scope of appellate review of a detention decision generally should focus on whether the trial court abused its discretion, but de novo review applies with respect to alleged errors or misapplications of law within that court’s analysis.

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