New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is seeking a constitutional amendment on the November ballot to change the state’s bail law, to allow judges to keep certain violent offenders in jail until their trials. The changes would bring New Jersey’s laws in line with other states and would be more like the federal system, the Philadelphia Inquirer
“Making changes to our bail laws is a common-sense move to stop preventable crimes from occurring by allowing a judge to use his or her common-sense approach to decide whether someone should be released or not,” Christie said.
Camden County Prosecutor Warren Faulk said he backs the idea, noting that even accused murderers can post up to $1 million in bond, secured by family members’ property, and then intimidate witnesses.
Christie's plan dovetails another proposal to send nonviolent drug offenders to treatment, not prison. The bail proposal could mean there will be more people behind bars, but the drug plan could create a balance.
To change the state bail law, the legislature must vote to put it on the ballot as a proposed constitutional amendment, If voters approve, the bail law would be made final in a detailed statute that would have to pass the Legislature and be signed by Christie.
The American Civil Liberties Union meanwhile, said it’s pleased the bail system is being reviewed, but warned there could be problems. ACLU policy counsel Alexander Shalom said those charged could plead guilty to a crime they didn’t commit to avoid at least a year behind bars while they await trial.
“We must also ensure that those who are presumed innocent have a real opportunity to have their day in court," he said.
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