In New Jersey, bail means you deposit or promise some form of money to a court to persuade the judge that you should be released from jail. Your agreement with the court is that you will forfeit your money if you do not come back to court, so you have a reason to come back to court. The New Jersey Constitution requires that all people shall be allowed bail (except for death penalty cases, which no longer exist.) The Constitution requires that the bail cannot be excessive. You have a right to bail in New Jersey.
The Supreme Court has declared that the only purpose of bail is to ensure that you appear for all court dates. Since the purpose is to make sure you come back, the bail is neither to punish you for this alleged crime nor to prevent you from committing future crimes. So, the judge must set a bail for you that is not excessive, and the judge looks to several factors.
In State v. Johnson, 61 N.J. 351, 364-365 (1972)the New Jersey Supreme Court spelled out eight factors that a Judge must consider in setting your bail:
- 1. How serious is the alleged crime, the apparent likelihood of you being convicted, and the punishment for the crime;
- 2. Your criminal record and previous record on bail;
- 3. Your reputation and mental condition;
- 4. How long have you lived in the community;
- 5. Your family ties and relationships;
- 6. Your employment status, record of employment, and financial condition;
- 7. Do any responsible members of the community vouch for your reliability;
- 8. Any other factors indicating your lifestyle, community ties, or showing a greater or lesser risk of you failing to appear for court.
Remember, the first thing the Judge reviews is the seriousness of the crime. The New Jersey Judges have a committee that writes the state-wide New Jersey bail schedule. This schedule has a suggested bail range for the types of cases and more serious cases have higher bail amounts. Your lawyer might be able to convince the judge that either the crime is not as serious as the police claimed or that the evidence against you is very weak. If the judge finds the case against you is weak, the judge may lower your bail.
After that, the judge will look to see how reliable you appear to be when you promise to come back to court. Your criminal record may show the judge that you have gotten into trouble but you always come to court or it could show you have had many warrants issued by other judges when you did not come to court. The judge will look at your community ties to decide if you are likely to come back to court. For example, a person visiting New Jersey for a day and planning to get on a plane to Antarctica would look to the judge as someone unlikely to come back to court. If you can show that you have ties to the area, family connections, a job, a stable life, or other reasons you would not flee, the judge may lower your bail.
These eight factors can determine how high a judge sets your bail or if you will be released. Your freedom is important. You should contact a criminal defense attorney immediately to discuss any questions or concerns about bail.