News Release

NACDL Releases Pretrial Justice Manual for New Jersey Practitioners; Additional States Forthcoming

Washington, DC (Dec. 13, 2016) – In partnership with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (ACLU-NJ) and the New Jersey Office of the Public Defender (NJ OPD), and with grant support from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) today releases The New Jersey Pretrial Justice Manual in an effort to support New Jersey attorneys as they work to end pretrial injustice in the state.

As recently as 2011, some 60-plus percent of inmates in local jails nationwide were awaiting trial, and accordingly were presumed innocent. Tragically, people in pretrial detention, even for short periods, often lose their employment, businesses, and housing; suffer education disruptions; and experience serious damage to family relationships. Accordingly, having a lawyer to assist in obtaining pretrial release is an essential component of the constitutional right to effective counsel.

Building on the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Criminal Justice, established and chaired by New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, New Jersey adopted groundbreaking pretrial justice and speedy trial legislation scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2017. The changes to the pretrial justice system required a constitutional amendment, approved by New Jersey voters in November 2014, which allows certain defendants to be detained pretrial without bail. As explained in the manual, "the new law will require defenders to familiarize themselves with a totally new scheme in order to ensure that their clients are not unnecessarily detained or subjected to onerous conditions of release." This manual is designed to give New Jersey practitioners the guidance needed to achieve pretrial release for their clients.

"Criminal defense lawyers in New Jersey will have a critical need for guidance as to how best to represent their clients under the new pretrial legal regime set to take effect there on January 1, 2017," explained NACDL President Barry J. Pollack. "It has been long-standing NACDL policy to advocate for a strong presumption of pretrial release and to advocate against conditioning pre-release on the ability to post money bonds, which result in people being incarcerated solely because they lack financial means. Since each person is innocent until proven guilty, pre-trial detention should be the exception, not the rule. This manual will assist lawyers in ensuring that this fundamental principle is implemented in New Jersey when the new law takes effect."

As explained by NACDL’s Director of Public Defense Training and Reform Colette Tvedt, "This has been a productive collaboration with attorneys from the ACLU-NJ and NJ OPD, and NACDL looks forward to continuing to work with this team to provide important training to New Jersey attorneys who will be representing clients at first appearances and detention hearings when the new statutes go into effect on January 1, 2017." 

"The ACLU-NJ is committed to changing our broken pretrial justice system as a way to help end mass incarceration in our state. Defense lawyers will be fighting on the front lines to ensure that our new system keeps most people out of jail and restores the promise that accused people are innocent until proven guilty,” said ACLU-NJ Senior Staff Attorney Alexander Shalom. "Working with NACDL and the New Jersey Office of the Public Defender, we've been able to create a manual that will provide instructions for advocates who are working to make our pretrial justice system fairer."

"This collaboration enables us to provide our attorneys with an invaluable tool to help them advocate for clients in the new pretrial justice landscape. We are confident that by integrating the manual with the training we have already put in place, our attorneys will be well prepared for the changes that take effect on January 1, 2017," said New Jersey Public Defender Joseph Krakora. "We are grateful to both the NACDL and NJ-ACLU for their assistance and look forward to our continued partnership to educate, train and empower New Jersey public defenders."

The New Jersey Pretrial Justice Manual is available for download here.

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In 2015, NACDL in partnership with the Office of the Colorado State Public Defender and the Colorado Criminal Defense Institute, and with grant support from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, published the Colorado Bail Book: A Defense Attorney's Guide to Adult Pretrial Release. Similar manuals for more jurisdictions are forthcoming.

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Ivan J. Dominguez, NACDL Director of Public Affairs & Communications, (202) 465-7662 or for more information.

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal legal system.