New Jersey Governor Chris Christie thinks violent criminals are free in the Garden State because bail guidelines are set far too low.
In a recent interview with Kevin McArdle on WKXW (NJ101.5), the Governor indicated a Bail Reform Act was needed in New Jersey. “I think we need it urgently.” Christie said, “We have violent people on the streets who are being bailed every day because judges have no choice.”
The Governor’s remarks come on the heels of a horrific massacre in Aurora, Colorado, where 12 people were murdered and scores wounded in a packed movie theater where the latest Batman movie was playing.
A measure to reform New Jersey bail guidelines was posted in late June in the State Legislature, but not voted on to date. Describing violent offenders who are freed on bail, Christie said that in some cases, “They leave. They intimidate witnesses. They commit further crimes and there’s no reason for us to have hesitated on (passing legislation).”
Christie’s observation that judges have no choice in setting bail, however, can be questioned. According to the website of the law offices of John F. Marshall, judges in New Jersey have considerable discretion in setting the amount of bail for a given charge.
“Judges continue to have latitude in whether and how (bail amounts) shall be applied. At one extreme, the Court may release a defendant on his own recognizance with no bail. At the other end of the spectrum, a judge may deny bail altogether, set tight restrictions for posting bail, or even impose conditions on release of a defendant,” the website explains. The Marshall firm has nine New Jersey locations and specializes in criminal law.
The general guidelines for setting bail in New Jersey range from as much as $750,000 for felony murder to as little as $1,000 for aggravated assault, which is defined as recklessly causing bodily injury with a deadly weapon.
The actual amount a judge selects for a particular charge is influenced, says the Marshall website, by the following factors:
The seriousness of the crime, the likelihood of conviction, the extent of punishment prescribed in the statute; the defendant's criminal record and previous record on bail, if any; The defendant's reputation and mental condition; length of the defendant's residence in the community; the defendant's family ties and relationships; the defendant's employment status, record of employment, and financial condition; the identity of responsible members of the community who would vouch for defendant's reliability; any other factors demonstrating the defendant's lifestyle, or ties to the community, or bearing on the risk of failure to appear.
Radio station WKXW bills itself as “New Jersey’s station.” The station’s format is generally described as conservative talk radio.
Listeners who would like to ask the Governor about his stance on bail bonds or any other topic can possibly speak with him directly tonight if they call into 101.5 for the station’s "Ask The Governor" show at 7 p.m.