Bail Reform: Attorney General vs NJ State Police

by | Feb 23, 2017 | Blog, Criminal Law, Law Reform and Amendments

Bail Reform“If a prosecutor has reason to believe that an agency is not satisfactorily complying with any of the requirements of this Section, or is not using all available means to submit a requested report and/or conduct a requested test/examination to enable the prosecutor to meet a deadline imposed under the Bail Reform Law, the prosecutor may notify and consult with the Director of the Division of Criminal Justice. The Director is hereby authorized to exercise the Attorney General’s authority as chief law enforcement  officer of the State and to take such actions as are reasonably  necessary  to resolve any dispute and to ensure that requested reports are prepared and requested tests/examinations are conducted as expeditiously as possible to ensure that no defendant is released from custody because of a failure to indict or proceed to trial by a deadline established under the Bail Reform  Law. The Judiciary is establishing an automated system to track speedy indictment/trial time limits imposed under the Bail Reform Law and to alert judges, prosecutors, and defense counsel as statutory deadlines approach. Prosecutors are responsible to ensure that all necessary and appropriate steps are taken to ensure that cases are prepared for indictment and trial in a timely manner so that no  dangerous defendant will be released due to delays attributed  to law enforcement.  See also Section 10 (prioritization of police reports and laboratory tests in pretrial detention cases). If a court determines that a deadline imposed under the Bail Reform Law has not been met, the prosecutor responsible for prosecuting the case promptly shall report the circumstances to the Attorney General through  the Director  of the Division of Criminal  Justice. The report  shall indicate the  reasons for delay, whether a court found pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:162-22(b)(2)(a) that the failure to commence trial in accordance with the time requirements set forth in the Bail Reform Law was due to unreasonable delay by the prosecutor, the steps that were taken by the prosecutor and law enforcement agencies to attempt to comply with the statutory deadlines, and whether a defendant was released from custody as a result of the failure to comply with the speedy indictment/trial requirements of the Bail Reform Law.”

This section highlights the tension that arises between different law enforcement agencies, here the Attorney General’s Office and the New Jersey State Police. The State police runs several of the testing laboratories throughout the state. It is strange that the Directive suggests that a defendant may not be released from pretrial detention in some cases where the Court finds that the prosecutor is responsible for unreasonable delay in failing to be prepared for trial before a statutory deadline. Release is the only conceivably meaningful remedy.