Evidence at Detention Hearings: Part 5

by | Aug 30, 2017 | Blog, Criminal Law, Legal Procedures

The New Jersey Supreme Court draws guidance from precedent that interpreted a law similar to the CJRA. The traditional balancing test for due process claims does not require the State to present live testimony at every hearing. Pretrial detention significantly interferes with a defendant’s liberty interest, but extensive safeguards protect that critical interest. And to require the State to present a live witness at more than 10,000 detention hearings each year would impose significant additional fiscal and administrative burdens on the court system, law enforcement officers, the prosecution, and public defenders. The trial court has discretion to require direct testimony if it is dissatisfied with the State’s proffer. In those instances, the State must proceed reasonably promptly to avoid unduly prolonging a defendant’s detention while the hearing is pending.

The reasoning regarding “more than 10,000 detention hearings” is not persuasive. The great number of hearings is due to prosecutors statewide requesting these hearings very liberally, even when it is substantially certain that detention will not be granted. The New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision in Ingram effectively rewards prosecutors for being unreasonable in their requests. Moreover, it rewards the prosecutors’ wasting of judicial resources by reasoning that requiring live testimony at the detention hearings necessitated by the prosecutors would unduly expend additional judicial resources. The alternative that the New Jersey Supreme Court should have considered was sanctions for prosecutors who request frivolous detention hearings.

It would have been within the trial court’s discretion to require a witness here. The State did not establish probable cause for possession for an unlawful purpose, and the affidavit should contain sufficient information in the form of factual details, not legal conclusions, to explain how probable cause exists for each charge. Notwithstanding the New Jersey Supreme Court’s analysis regarding the State’s failure to establish probable cause at the detention hearing, the judgements of the trial court and Appellate Division were affirmed.