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Domestic Violence & Bail Reform in New Jersey

Published: May 4, 2018

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Bail for domestic violence case NJ help top lawyers The possible threat posed by individuals charged with domestic violence offenses in New Jersey has prompted further discussions about bail. For instance, the recent deaths of Tiffany Wilson and Anishalee Cortes highlighted the issue of domestic violence as it relates to New Jersey’s new bail system. Wilson was tragically shot to death by her ex-boyfriend, Kareem Dawson, after he was released by the Court for the second time pending trial. He was initially charged with aggravated assault for allegedly using his car to ram Wilson’s car, while her children were inside. Similarly, Cortes was also killed by an ex-partner, Dominik Richards, after he was set free by the Court pending trial. Richards faced aggravated assault charges for allegedly threatening Cortes at gunpoint. These cases have been in the spotlight, but all charges for domestic violence are taken extremely seriously in New Jersey and it is very difficult for some defendants to be released after their domestic violence detention hearing. This is why it is vital to have an experienced attorney representing you during court for bail. If you have been arrested for domestic violence and want to know if you may be able to get out on bail, contact a knowledgeable NJ Domestic Violence Lawyer at our firm for immediate assistance. We provide free consultations.

How does Bail Work for Domestic Violence Charges in NJ?

In January 2017, New Jersey’s bail system was reformed. The old model reflected the traditional school of thought, meaning, the Court would impose a large cash bail or bond in order to ensure that the defendant returned to court. The new model operates by following a risk assessment scale; based upon the person’s score, the court can release the suspect, release the suspect with certain monitoring conditions, or detain the person until trial. To make that decision, judges rely heavily on the computer-generated risk assessment score that instantly references a defendant’s prior convictions, newly alleged crime, and seven other factors to rank on a scale of one to six both their likelihood of failing to appear in court and their likelihood of new criminal activity, as well as flag any risk of new violent criminal activity.

Due to public outcry over cases like the recent ones involving Dawson and Richards, the NJ State Judiciary is looking into whether prior domestic violence incidents could be specifically factored into the risk assessment score. “Currently, the tool does not include an assessment of domestic violence,” Judge Glenn Grant, the courts’ acting administrative director, told the state Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee last week. “We are trying to explore with a consultant whether domestic violence can be added as an additional factor.”

John Harrison, the criminal division manager for the Passaic Vicinage of state Superior Court, said that the PSA — which draws from a number of state databases — will generate a specific flag for new violent criminal activity if the defendant has at least one prior conviction in a domestic violence case, even if it’s a disorderly persons offense rather than an indictable one.

Recent pending domestic violence charges without convictions — like those Dawson had at the time of his second detention hearing — won’t trigger such a warning on their own, however.

Addressing Specific Domestic Violence Risk Factors

Also, it’s important to note, judges are not bound by the assessment’s recommendations and can reject them with an official explanation. Still, domestic violence advocates say better tools are needed to inform the judges’ decisions. “We are strongly advocating that the courts implement a tool to assess domestic violence risk factors,” said Nicole Morella, the public policy and communications director for the New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence.

What may be imposed is a supplementary tool, the Ontario Domestic Violence Risk Assessment (ODARA), which is being used by county prosecutors in conjunction with the PSA in determining whether to seek detention in domestic violence cases. The assessment, developed in Canada, asks 13 questions to identify whether there’s a risk of repeated violence by the defendant against the same victim, including whether the defendant and the victim have at least one child together.

Although the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office has directed prosecutors to use the ODARA tool, state officials have said its scores could not be presented to judges in detention hearings without the passage of legislation similar to the criminal justice reforms that mandated the PSA.

Court for Bail for NJ Domestic Violence Case? Don’t go it Alone

Accordingly, if you are charged with a domestic violence crime or face a restraining order in New Jersey, it’s important that you contact experienced NJ domestic violence attorney Travis Tormey. Mr. Tormey and his team of highly skilled lawyers defend those facing domestic violence charges in counties across New Jersey. To find out more about your possible release on bail for a domestic violence charge, call (908)-336-5008 or contact us online today.

Filed under: Domestic Violence

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for a free initial consultation Contact the Tormey Law Firm

Travis J. Tormey is a distinguished member of the legal community and a respected legal resource on domestic violence. He has been featured in a variety of prominent publications and media outlets, including CBS radio, Aol News, the Asbury Park Press,, and the Daily Record. Mr. Tormey has also been recognized as one of the the top criminal attorneys under 40 years of age by the National Trial Lawyers Association and the National Academy of Criminal Defense Attorneys. Whether representing victims or the wrongly accused, Travis remains passionately committed to protecting the rights of the innocent.

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