New Jersey Senator Cory Booker has called for criminal justice reform, spearheading the REDEEM Act and openly criticizing the War on Drugs.

Obama and Booker Set Sights on Criminal Justice Reform

In last month’s State of the Union address, President Obama called on “Democrats and Republicans, community leaders and law enforcement, to reform America’s criminal justice system so that it protects and serves us all.”

New Jersey Senator Cory Booker has called for criminal justice reform, spearheading the REDEEM Act and openly criticizing the War on Drugs.

Sen. Cory Booker

The President’s call for reforms was prompted by civil unrest surrounding recent events in Ferguson, MO, Staten Island, NY, and elsewhere. But where Obama was content to issue vague calls to action, leaving the heavy lifting to Congress and local leaders, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, with whom the President has spoken on issues of reform, is willing to get specific.

Booker has been an outspoken critic of the War on Drugs in the past, citing racial disparities in arrests and calling for marijuana possession to be punishable only by a small fine.

“We in America are paying an outrageous amount of money” to incarcerate non-violent offenders, Booker said in a call to reporters. “One of the best ways to boost the economy is to reduce government spending when it’s unnecessary.”

Booker also formed an unlikely alliance with libertarian Senator Rand Paul last year to sponsor the REDEEM Act, a bill that would help shift tax dollars from criminal punishment of drug offenders to getting them better prepared to find work and move on with their lives. The bill, among other things, would make it possible for people to seal their non-violent criminal records from employers and others, return welfare benefits to non-violent offenders, and keep minors out of the adult justice system.

“Our country’s misguided criminal justice policies have placed an economic drag on communities… and on our nation’s global competitiveness — all while making us less, not more, safe,” Booker has said.

The REDEEM Act died before getting to committee, but Senators Paul and Booker are both still active in Congress, and anxious for change. With President Obama echoing their concerns, what the future holds for criminal justice in New Jersey and America is anyone’s guess.

If you can’t wait for Congress, and need help navigating the New Jersey criminal justice system today, call Chance BailBonds at (877) 647-5731.

Drop in New York Arrests Affects Bail Bondsmen and Lawyers

New York arrests bailNew York City has seen a significant decrease recently in the number of arrests made and traffic tickets issued. In addition to costing the city revenue, the decline is affecting bail bond companies and traffic lawyers.

Many police officers were upset by comments that Mayor Bill de Blasio made after the killings of two police officers in their patrol car on December 20. Some of de Blasio’s supporters believe the drop in arrests and tickets is the result of a work slowdown by police. Police unions deny sanctioning a slowdown.

The number of arrests for the week ending on January 4, 2015 was 2,401, down from 5,448 in the same period the previous year. In the week beginning December 22, 2013, 575 new inmates were booked in New York. The average number for that same week over the previous three years was around 1,000. Between the end of December and the beginning of January, only 618 new inmates were booked, compared to 1,041 who were processed in the last week of 2013.

Some bail bond companies are reporting a significant drop in the number of people seeking help posting bail. While larger companies might be able to endure a significant drop in business, smaller bail bond businesses could suffer disproportionately.

The number of parking and driving-related tickets issued from the end of December to the beginning of January is more than 90 percent lower than the same period last year. Traffic lawyers who help people fight fines for traffic violations, such as speeding, texting, talking on cell phones, and reckless driving, are reporting a steep decline in the number of people calling and emailing to request their services.

Some lawyers say it is too early to know if the fall in inquiries is the result of the holidays or a police slowdown. Other lawyers are seeing normal amounts of business but say that there may not be a noticeable drop in inquiries right away because many people do not seek help from a lawyer immediately after receiving a ticket.

Parking fines generated $542 million in revenue for the city in 2013. While it is significant, that is a small fraction of New York’s $75 billion annual budget. The drop in fines could affect the city’s budget, although it is too early to project the impact. Police Commissioner William Bratton said the city might actually save money by issuing fewer summonses because it would not have to pay officers overtime to go to court to testify.

De Blasio did not want to comment on whether the decline in arrests and tickets was the result of a work slowdown by police. He and Bratton said they needed more time to investigate the issue.

Supreme Court Blocks Arizona Bail Law

Supreme Court bail lawThe U.S. Supreme Court decided in November that it would not overturn the 9th Circuit Court’s ruling that blocked a controversial Arizona law approved by voters.

The law, which was passed by 78 percent of Arizona voters in 2006 as Proposition 100, required a judge to order a person charged with a crime held without bail if there was probable cause to believe that the person was in the United States illegally. The person would have to be held without bail even if the judge and the prosecutor did not believe that the subject was a flight risk. The law applied to undocumented immigrants who were charged with Class 4 felonies (which includes aggravated DUI, possession of narcotics, forgery, identity theft, and other crimes) or more serious charges.

The American Civil Liberties Union opposed the law in court, arguing that the Constitution is designed to protect the rights of anyone who comes into contact with the U.S. justice system, including undocumented immigrants. They argued that everyone should be presumed innocent until proven guilty and should be provided with certain protections, including the opportunity to have bail granted by a judge if the defendant is not considered a flight risk.

The judges on the 9th Circuit Court determined that the law was intended to punish undocumented immigrants, even if they did not pose a risk. The Court struck down the law and granted a stay while the case was appealed to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court dissolved the stay, which means the law can no longer be enforced.

The Supreme Court’s decision does not mean that undocumented immigrants who are currently being held without bail will automatically be let out of jail. It simply means that they will be granted a hearing where a judge will decide if they should be granted bail.

Paterson Forces Stores to Close by Midnight to Stem Crime

ChancePaterson, NJ has had enough. The first planned city in America that was supposed to be a testament to democracy and progress has turned into a nightmare of crime, violence and murder.

On July 4th, 12-year-old Genesis Rincon was killed by a stray bullet in the city’s 4th Ward. On September 15th, a 27-year-old man, Antoine Garris was shot and killed on 10th Avenue. Not more than a week later, several men in Paterson’s 1st Ward open fired on a crowd of teenagers, killing 15-year-old Nazerah Bugg and wounding another girl. BY the end of the week, the city’s death toll had exceeded all of 2013.

In 2011 the Paterson police force was forced to cut 1/3 of its staff due to budget shortfalls. Now, the overwhelmed police are unable to stem the wave of violence that plagues the city.

“I will tell you that we are undermanned,” Police Director Jerry Speziale said. “We have to think outside of the box”.

One of the new policies is a city curfew. However, unlike most curfews that force residents to be inside by a certain time, this ordinance will force 420 businesses on 15 designated trouble zones to be closed by midnight or face a fine of $2,000. Camden and Jersey City have limited business curfews as well in certain areas.

The hope is that with businesses closed less people will be out on the streets and hopefully crime will drop. However, some critics claim criminals don’t have operating hours and shuttering businesses won’t deter drug dealers and gang members from operating as usual. Others say empty streets are scarier than a full block.

While it will be some time before statistics show that the curfew is working the police are saying they have little choice since they don’t have the manpower to patrol the streets. The experiment will be closely watched and if successful could be adopted by other cities with high crime rates.

NJ Motorcycle Gang Member Caught w/Illegal Gun

NavarroPerhaps it is fitting that the day after the series finale of Sons of Anarchy, a TV series based on a fictional motorcycle gang in California a real motorcycle gang member would be arrested for unlawful possession of a handgun.

According to NJ.com, Victor Navarro, 35, of Jersey City, was involved in a street fight that resulted in a stabbing and when police made the arrest they found a loaded handgun in his possession. Navarro is also being charged with receiving stolen property and violation of the regulatory provisions relating to firearms.

Navarro is believed to have affiliations with the What Ever Riders motorcycle gang. On Sunday police officers in Jersey City received information that a street fight involving gang members was taking place at Mango’s Lounge on Linden Avenue.

Following the street brawl that resulted in a stabbing, Navarro drove his 2004 Honda Odyssey to Union City and parked at Bowl Rite Bowling Lanes near Eighth Street. Fellow gang members were reportedly present and police set up surveillance on the minivan.

After thirty minutes, Navarro drove away going east on Eighth Street. Once he crossed Kennedy Boulevard and headed west on Secaucus Road police pulled him over. When asked to step out of the vehicle, police noticed a black handgun lying in the rear hatch of the van.

Officers arrested Navarro and confiscated a Kimber Tactical Handgun, which had seven rounds of ammunition in the magazine clip.

Navarro appeared in Central Judicial Processing in Jersey City on Monday via video link from the Hudson County Correctional Facility in Kearny. Judge Margaret Marley set his bail at $100,000 cash or bond.

Jersey City Teen Held for Unlawful Possession of a Weapon

DayvonOn Friday, November 28th, Dayvon Middleton, 19, of Culver Avenue was arrested by police after calls were placed reporting shots being fired.

The gunshots were reported on Grant Avenue and when police arrived at the scene they reported seeing Middleton put a shotgun inside a trash can in the backyard of a resident’s home.

After a search of the area police apprehended Middleton and three 16-year-old male juveniles inside the basement of a home on Grant Avenue. When officers patted Middleton down they found a 12-gauge shotgun shell in his sweatshirt pocket.

Soon after the police officers spotted the handle of a weapon sticking out of a trash can and recovered a Harrington and Richardson topper Model 88 12-gauge sawed-off shotgun. No shells were found inside the weapon. Police arrested the four males with Middleton being transported to the South district headquarters. Middleton appeared in Central Judicial Processing court this past Monday via a video link from the Hudson jail in Kearny.

Judge Margaret Marley set bail at $50,000 cash or bond. According to police records, Middleton has one prior arrest in New Jersey.

Gang Founder Held on $750,000 Bail

CollinsDetectives from Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli’s office charged William “Christopher” Collins, 41, with conspiracy to commit murder and are holding the leader of the infamous James Bond Gang on $750,000 bail.

Collins is one of four men and a 17-year-old male taken into custody last December by a task force consisting of detectives from the Special Investigation Squad of Molinelli’s office, the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office and several Bergen County municipal police departments.

Collins and Whitaker had stolen jewelry from a Teaneck home last December 22nd and as they were driving back to New Jersey, investigators moved in and made the arrest. Both were on intensive parole at the time despite lengthy criminal histories.

Four months ago, investigators got a tip that Collins was plotting to kill one of his co-defendants before the case could go to trial.

Court Fees Rise to Cover Bail Reform

court-feesAfter the vote on November 3rd that saw bail reform approved by 62% of voters in New Jersey, the state judiciary announced a rate hike in approximately 80 of its fees. This means filing a lawsuit, seeking a divorce and obtaining gun permits are no more expensive.

The extra cost to court users is expected to approach nearly $42 million per year. The extra money is scheduled to be used for creating a new system for assessing defendant’s bail status to implement changes state voters approved on November 3rd.

Some of the rate increases include:

–          Applying to get a criminal record expunged has risen to $75 from $52.50

–          Filing a lawsuit, an appeal or for divorce will now cost $50 more

–          Filing a small claim costs $35, up from $15

–          Permits to carry a handgun costs $50, up from $20

The last time court fees were raised was in 2002. The new changes are expected to increase court revenues by $42 million to $49 million per year. Bail reforms approved by 62% of voters in the November 3rd elections allow judges to order a defendant held in jail without bail if they’re considered a flight risk, a safety threat or likely to try to obstruct the criminal justice process.

Legislation implementing those changes will also loosen bail rules for low-risk offenders who aren’t deemed a safety risk. However, this will require new staff, electronic monitoring, drug testing and other services that could cost up to $35 million per year.

New Jersey Voters Approve Bail Reform Measure

ReformYesterday New Jersey voters went to the polls and approved a proposal to amend the state constitution allowing judges to deny pre-trial release to some defendants charged with serious crimes. Those that may be denied bail include those considered a danger, those who pose a flight risk and someone who may pose a threat to obstruct justice.

The bail amendment has been on the agenda of Governor Chris Christie for over two years. Christie said reform was necessary ever since New Jersey repealed the death penalty in 2007. Prior to that, New Jersey’s constitution allowed judges to deny bail to defendants charged with offenses that were punishable by the death penalty.

However, when the death penalty was repealed it meant all defendants were eligible for bail, no matter how serious the crime.

The new measure won’t take effect until 2017 and there are many who disapprove of the reform. The Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers of New Jersey is just one group that considers the reform a threat to the constitutional right to bail that New Jersey has had in its constitution since it was created.

Christie built a strong coalition to support the reform, including the ACLU, and yesterday his efforts paid off with the passing of the bail reform measure.

Gov. Christie to Address Bail Bond Reform at NJ NAACP Convention

chris_christie_pointingOn Saturday, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will speak at the NAACP New Jersey State Convention membership luncheon in Parsippany. Among the many topics to be addressed is bail bond reform, an issue that will be up for vote on November 4th.

At stake is an amendment (SCR128) that would allow judges to deny bail to offenders who pose a threat to safety, a flight risk or could obstruct justice. Christie also supports a constitutional amendment (S946) that would create non-monetary alternatives for pre-trial release, along with risk assessment system, so that lower-level offenders don’t have to sit in jail for months as they await trial because they can’t make bail.

According to Christie, new bail bond laws could prevent jails from becoming “debtor’s prisons”. Christie has said the old system often keeps people in jail awaiting trial for more than 10 months when they can’t post bail of a few hundred dollars.