Contempt and Violations Of Pre-Trial Release (Part 5)

by | May 6, 2019 | Blog, Legal Procedures, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

The Appellate Division continued in relevant part: The Court added that, “The no-contact orders in the defendant’s bail orders did not lose their character as judicial no-contact orders merely because bail consequences could attach for their violation. As judicial no-contact orders, the defendant was obligated to strictly comply with them.” The Court also stated that the defendant’s violation of the bail orders “provided the bases for the numerous contempt charges filed against him.”

The Court’s reasoning in Gandhi applies here. Conditions set forth in a pretrial release order “do not lose their character” as a judicial order merely because other consequences, such as revocation of release, could attach for their violation. See id. at 190. We expect defendants to strictly comply with the court’s pretrial release orders. We therefore conclude that a pretrial release order is a “judicial order” under N.J.S.A. 2C:29-9(a), and a defendant who purposely or knowingly violates the conditions in the order may be charged with contempt.

Defendants argue, however, that case law addressing violations of court orders in other contexts shows that the Legislature did not intend that a defendant who violates conditions in a pretrial release order would be subject to prosecution for criminal contempt. Defendants cite State v. Williams, (App. Div. 1989), in support of this argument.

In Williams, after the defendant was convicted of certain offenses, the trial court sentenced him to three years of probation and time served, but ordered that the defendant shall have no contact with his ex-wife and certain other individuals. The defendant violated the no-contact condition and he was charged with three counts of contempt of court under N.J.S.A. 2C:29-9(a), as well as certain other offenses.

We held that a violation of a condition of probation may not be charged as criminal contempt. We observed that the probation statute allows the court to place “statutory conditions” in the order placing a defendant on probation, and the consequence of a violation is specified in N.J.S.A. 2C:45-3(a)(4). We drew a distinction between an order directing a defendant to do or refrain from doing a particular act, which could be the basis of a contempt of court charge, and a conditional order which either states the ramifications of its violation or has such consequences established by law.

The last distinction drawn by the Court is not persuasive. The standard conditions of probation also direct a defendant “to do or refrain from doing particular acts”, i.e. the maintenance of full-time employment, refraining from drug or alcohol use, and having no contact with victims. Violations of probation also have “consequences established by law.”