Contempt and Violations Of Pre-Trial Release (Part 6)

by | May 8, 2019 | Blog, Legal Procedures, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

The three-judge panel continued in relevant part: We also stated that contempt of court should not be superimposed as an additional remedy in a probation violation setting if the act that occasions the violation is not otherwise criminal. We concluded that when the Legislature expressly stated in N.J.S.A. 2C:45-3(a)(4) that the sanction for a violation of probation (other than for the inherent criminality of the act) would be a revocation of probation, it intended that a defendant would not be subject to a new indictment for contempt in addition to the punishment for the original offense.

We are convinced that defendants’ reliance upon Williams is misplaced. In Williams, the court held that a violation of probation could not be the basis of a criminal contempt charge because in the probation statute the Legislature had prescribed the sanctions the court may impose for violations, which may include “forfeiture of the defendant’s conditional exemption from punishment for the original crime” rather than additional punishment for the probation violation.

This reasoning does not apply to violations of a pretrial release order because the CJRA is not a substantive criminal enactment, and pretrial detention under the Act is not punishment. See United States v. Salerno, 481 U.S. 739, 746-48 (1987) (holding that federal BRA is a regulatory measure that does not provide for punishment). In N.J.S.A. 2A:162-24, the Legislature has prescribed the sanctions the court may apply to address a violation of a condition of release, but these sanctions do not include punishment.

In further support of their argument, defendants rely upon State ex. rel. S.S. (2005). In that case, a juvenile was adjudicated delinquent for contempt after she violated the court’s order, which required that she obey the rules of her home and school. Id. at 403-04. We reversed the adjudication of contempt. Id. at 416.

We noted that while N.J.S.A. 2C:29-9(a) appeared to apply literally to the juvenile’s conduct, applying the statute to the violation of the order to obey the rules of home and school would not be consistent with the overriding goal of the juvenile justice system, which is rehabilitation, not punishment. We held that while we understood that the court must have some means of enforcing orders involving juveniles who repeatedly run away from home or are chronically truant, a charge under N.J.S.A. 2C:29-9 is not the appropriate or intended means of enforcement.

The Court’s holding that the sanctions for violating pretrial release conditions are not punishments is not persuasive. “Sanction” and “punishment” are synonymous. Moreover, the sanctions include revocation of release and return to jail without the ability to post bail.