Bail Reform: Material Change of Circumstances

by | Mar 1, 2017 | Blog, Criminal Law, Law Reform and Amendments

Bail Reform“This approach has been accepted by the courts. In State v.Thomas, 392 N.J. Super. 169, 182 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 192 N .J. 597 (2007), the Appellate Division rejected the defendant’s challenge to the formal escalating plea system in the Brimage Guidelines, concluding that “[t]his policy is vital to the operation of the Guidelines and furthers the purposes of section 12 [N.J.S.A. 2C:35- l 2] waiver, which are to provide incentives for defendants to cooperate with law enforcement and to encourage plea bargaining. The [escalating plea] policy furthers the purposes of the CDRA [Comprehensive Drug Reform Act] to minimize pretrial delay and to ensure the prompt disposition of charges and the prompt imposition of punishment. We note that prompt disposition also aids in the rehabilitation of offenders by enabling them to accept responsibility for their conduct.” Ibid. (citations to State v. Brimage, 153 N.J. 1 (1998) omitted).

In State v. Shaw, 113N .J. 1 (1993), the New Jersey Supreme Court recognized in this regard that early disposition “is an important law-enforcement objective, thus harnessing the most efficient use of prosecutor, defense, and judge time.” It also is important to note that the Supreme Court, by its adoption of the so-called “plea cut off” rule codified in Rule 3:9-3(g), has acknowledged that there comes a time when plea discussions must end. That rule provides that after the pretrial conference has been conducted and a trial date has been set, the court may not accept a negotiated plea absent the approval of the Criminal Presiding Judge based on a material change of circumstances or the need to avoid a protracted trial ·or a manifest injustice.”

The Directive again omits how common it is for Presiding Judges to allow cases to resolve with a plea agreement even on the day of trial, long after the case has gone through plea cut-off. A common scenario involves the use of a form where the reason given for the required “material change of circumstances” is that a new plea offer was tendered. The details of the “new plea offer” are not reduced to writing, thereby enabling all parties to avoid a trial that is otherwise required by court rule or statute.