Being arrested can affect a person’s life long before he or she even has the opportunity to address the allegations. Cash bail played a large role in this problem in the past, but it is no longer a problem for New Jersey residents. The state no longer participates in a cash bail system, which disproportionately affected low-income and disadvantaged communities. Aside from keeping defendants out of jail so they can continue to work, care for their families and focus on criminal defense planning, a recent study showed that there has been another surprising benefit.
With the old system, judges had a significant level of discretion when setting bail, which they only looked at defendants’ current charges and past records. Judges now have more than one option, none of which involve keeping people behind bars when they do not have the means to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Using an algorithm that measures defendants’ so-called risk factors, a judge may still order that a defendant remain behind bars. However, defendants may also be released either without conditions or with an ankle monitoring system.
There have been fewer arrests in New Jersey since the new system went into effect. Nonviolent crimes that are not considered too serious saw the biggest drop in arrests, with far fewer people arrested for things like obscenity or loitering. Arrest rates for more serious or violent charges have stayed roughly the same. This shows that both police officers and state prosecutors have changed their approaches when it comes to arresting and charging people for minor offenses.
Doing away with cash bail has not only reduced arrests for less serious offenses, it has also given people who have been arrested the opportunity to continue their lives as normally as possible while also working on their criminal defense plans. However, just because a judge decides that a defendant does not need to stay behind bars does not mean that his or her situation is not serious. A criminal conviction of any kind can negatively impact a person’s life, especially when it comes to employment, so being vigilant throughout criminal court proceedings is essential.