In the federal system, most people charged with non-violent offenses are released on conditions after their first appearance before a magistrate judge. Conditions of release are meant to reasonably assure the appearance of the defendant in court as required, as well as the safety of any other person or the community pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §3142(c). Conditions may be as simple as release on an unsecured appearance bond (meaning no property or money is posted); travel restricted to the continental United States; surrender of one’s passport; surrender of any firearms; and telephonic or in-person reporting to Pretrial Services. In certain serious cases, conditions of release could be very stringent, requiring home detention with electronic monitoring where the person is only allowed out of the home for pre-approved visits with their attorney or medical appointments; surrender of family members’ passports; the posting of real properties with substantial equity; and release of the defendant to third party custodians who are required to report any violations of the release conditions to the court.
In January 2017, the New Jersey Legislature amended the State Constitution and passed legislation to dramatically alter the process by which courts determine whether a defendant is held in jail – rather than released – while awaiting trial. While defendants previously could secure pretrial release by paying bail money to the court, the new system, commonly referred to as, simply, “Bail Reform,” conditions pretrial release upon a judge’s determination of the likelihood that the defendant will fail to appear in court or commit another offense, without consideration of the defendant’s financial resources.