If you or someone you know are facing a charge in New Jersey for a domestic violence offense and are awaiting a detention hearing, you probably have a lot of questions and concerns. The purpose of detention in the criminal justice process is mainly to ensure the safety of victims and the community at large. Comprehensive New Jersey bail reform, The New Jersey Criminal Justice Reform Act, was enacted in 2017 and it made significant changes to how detention of criminal defendants is handled in all criminal cases, including domestic violence cases, in New Jersey. The reform moved New Jersey’s pretrial detention system away from a monetary-based bail system into a risk-based assessment to reform the discriminatory effects of the old system on low-income defendants.
Within New Jersey’s Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, certain offenses are considered acts of domestic violence when they are committed in the context of a relationship covered by the Act. These offenses include, but are not limited to, sexual assault, simple assault, terroristic threats, and criminal restraint. New Jersey’s Domestic Violence Act includes a mandatory arrest provision and, accordingly, all domestic violence cases, including simple assault or violation of a restraining order, require a detention hearing.
Step by Step After Being Arrested or Charged with Domestic Violence in NJ
When you are arrested for a domestic violence offense, you must be aware that you have certain constitutional rights, including your right to remain silent, that anything you say or do can be used against you in a court of law, that you have the right to an attorney and, if you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.
Then, a set of procedural steps will begin, starting with the booking process. The police will collect some biographical information for identification purposes, including your full legal name, any aliases, date of birth, and address. The police will take your driver’s license and/or any other identifying information you may have on you, along with any other personal items in your possession. The booking process will also include taking your fingerprints and photo. You will be held in a holding cell until your detention hearing, which may be up to 48 hours after your arrest. During this time, you may meet with your attorney.
A Public Safety Assessment (PSA) will be conducted before your detention hearing, which will grade your likelihood of having certain risk factors for release. The PSA serves as an important tool for the judge when assessing whether a condition or set of conditions on your release could reasonably assure that you will not be a flight risk, danger to others, or attempt to obstruct justice. Your attorney will want to review this assessment to prepare for your detention hearing.
Weighing the Relevant Factors at a Domestic Violence Detention Hearing
In making his or her determination, the judge will consider the alleged facts surrounding your current criminal charges, your criminal history, whether your offense was violent in nature, your age, and ties to the community (including employment, home ownership, children, and other factors), any past violations of no-contact orders, past probation violations, and any prior failures to appear in court.
After reviewing your PSA and considering all of these factors, including your defense and arguments against detainment, the judge will determine whether you will be released pending trial and, if so, with what conditions, if any.
Pre-Trial Release Conditions and Options for Domestic Violence Defendants
At your detention hearing, the judge will determine if you should be detained while pending trial or if you can be released with or without conditions. These conditions may include restraining orders to present contact with victims, monitoring alcohol or drug use, not committing another offense during the release period, not contacting any witnesses about the offense, complying with a curfew, refraining from possession of a firearm or other dangerous weapon, and even house arrest.
One condition of your release could be house arrest pending trial, in which you may be released from police custody, but you will be prohibited from leaving your home, and your location will be tracked with a GPS device, usually in the form of an ankle monitoring device. This device will immediately notify law enforcement if you leave your home without authorization, and if you do, you will almost certainly be ordered to be detained pending trial. House arrest in domestic violence cases cannot, of course, occur in the home of the victim and will usually include a no-contact order with the victim.
Our Domestic Violence Defense Lawyers Fight for Your Release at a Detention Hearing
At your detention hearing, you have a right to present your defense. The prosecution has the burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that you should be detained because, for most offenses, there is a presumption of release. The only exception to this is if you are charged with murder or an offense that carries the potential of a life sentence, in which case there is a presumption against your release.
For most offenses, if your attorney can argue to the judge’s satisfaction that a certain condition or set of conditions provide reasonable assurance that you will not be a flight risk, threat to the safety of the victim in the case and anyone else, or try to obstruct the criminal justice policy, then the judge must order you to be released, pursuant to any necessary conditions, while awaiting trial.
Individuals who remain detained pending trial tend to receive harsher sentences if convicted. If you or someone you love are facing domestic violence charges in Parsippany, Chatham, Randolph, Denville, Florham Park, and other towns around the Morris County area, do not wait until after a detention hearing to contact a New Jersey domestic violence defense attorney. Having an advocate by your side at your detention hearing is incredibly important, and we are prepared to fight for your release during these proceedings. Contact 973-524-7238 to talk to a criminal defense attorney regarding your case.