Yesterday 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 Christie said reform was necessary ever since New Jersey repealed the death penalty in 2007.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However, when the death penalty was repealed it meant all defendants were eligible for bail, no matter how serious the crime.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.