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Outcry against bail system changes for New Jersey juvenile crime

A few changes have been made to the way the state handles bail for underage offenders. New Jersey recently chose to allow a computer-generated risk assessment to be used when a judge is deciding bail. This assessment does not use juvenile crime records. While ordering a new detention hearing for one of the state's sex offenders, a panel of three judges was one of the first to use the new system in its decision. After this decision brought about the release of a sex offender, some feel that the new system brings with it a whole new set of issues.

The new detention hearing comes after prosecutors became outraged at the release of one sex offender during the first detention hearing. The judge made his decision to release the offender while both judges and attorneys were still trying to adapt to the new bail system. The prosecutors, however, don't seem to feel that this justifies the judge's decision. They also feel that the judge should have given a more detailed explanation of why he chose to release the offender, whom they feel is still dangerous.

While the bail system does not use either Megan's Law or juvenile records, the 50 page decision recommends that a judge heavily considers both. The Megan's Law tier classification gives an indication of how likely the courts feel it is that the offender will commit another sex crime. The judge does have a choice, however, and does not have to abide by the risk assessment. If the judge chooses not to follow the assessment, he or she is supposed to give a detailed reason why.

This offender could be retained again after his second hearing. Although the computer-generated bail system does not use either juvenile records or Megan's Law tiers, New Jersey courts want both used in detention hearings. Those who are arrested for a juvenile crime could try to get the charges removed from their record, to avoid the charges from being used against them in the future. An experienced criminal attorney can advise clients concerning these issues and fight for optimal results.

Source: nj.com, "Court clarifies use of sex offenses, juvenile records in N.J.'s new bail system", MaryAnn Spoto, March 21, 2017

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