Pretrial Release and Contempt (Part 2)

by | Sep 28, 2020 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

Justice Rabner continued in relevant part: We note as well that N.J.S.A. 2C:29-9 states that a violation of an order entered under any of the following statutes or circumstances may be subject to a contempt prosecution: the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 to -35; the Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act, N.J.S.A. 2C:14-13 to -21; the Extreme Risk Protective Order Act, N.J.S.A. 2C:58-20 to -32; and a restraining order based on a conviction for stalking or, in certain circumstances, an allegation of stalking, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-10.1, -10.2. N.J.S.A. 2C:29-9(b) to (e). Although the contempt statute has been amended four times since the enactment of the CJRA, the Legislature did not add the CJRA to that list. See L. 2015, c. 141, § 1 (eff. Nov. 9, 2015); L. 2015, c. 147, § 10 (eff. May 7, 2016); L. 2016, c. 93, § 3 (eff. Jan. 9, 2017); L. 2018, c. 35, § 12 (eff. Sept. 1, 2019).

Because we rely heavily on language and legislative history that is particular to the CJRA, we need not consider case law from other contexts at length. In Williams, the Appellate Division focused on the probation statute and concluded that “contempt of court should not be superimposed as an additional remedy in a probation violation setting if the act that occasions the violation itself is not otherwise criminal.” 

In S.S., the Appellate Division held “it is contrary to the legislative intent expressed in the New Jersey Code of Juvenile Justice, and unjustified under existing statutory and common law, for a juvenile status offender to be adjudicated delinquent” for contempt for acts that do not violate the criminal code. The court emphasized “the overriding goal of the juvenile justice system is rehabilitation, not punishment.” Id. at 407. This Court affirmed for substantially the same reasons. State in Interest of S.S. (2005).

The Court’s logic is strong regarding the contempt statute being amended four times without reference to the CJRA. Deference to the Legislature usually works in the State’s favor, but not in this case.