SUSPENSION OF COUNTY JAIL SENTENCES
Based on the danger posed by the COVID-19 virus, and the Public Health Emergency and State of Emergency declared by Governor Murphy, the New Jersey Supreme Court has ordered that any person currently serving a county jail sentence as a condition of probation, or municipal court sentence be released from the county jail where they are detained.
Burlington County has 59 county jail inmates who qualify to be immediately release. The Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office objected to the release of 41 of those individuals, almost 70% of those persons qualified. This greatly exceeds the 40% objection rate by prosecutors statewide for the 809 incarcerated persons eligible for release throughout New Jersey. Click HERE to read the article.
WHAT ARE THE CONDITIONS OF THE ORDER?
On March 22, 2020, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued an Order granting the release of persons serving minor jail sentences. The Order was entered with the consent of the Office of the Attorney General, all County Prosecutors, the Office of the Public Defender, and the American Civil Liberties Union. The Order requires that no later than March 26, 2020, any inmate currently serving a county jail sentence as a condition of probation, or municipal court sentence be released from the county jail where they are detained.
Who is eligible for release?
Any inmate serving a county jail sentence is eligible for release. These sentences also include a resentencing from a violation of probation in Superior Court, a county jail sentence not tethered to a probationary sentence for a fourth-degree crime, and sentences for disorderly persons and petty disorderly persons sentences in Superior Court.
My family member is eligible, but has not been released. What can be done to have them released?
The 41 qualified persons in Burlington County that the prosecutor has objected to being released can have the decision reviewed by the court. Others being detained throughout New Jersey due to the objection of the County Prosecutor or Attorney General are also eligible to have the decision reviewed by the court.
If an eligible person has not been released due to an objection, the inmate will have legal representation to advocate for their release. The Office of the Public Defender is representing all persons against whom an objection has been lodged.
On or before March 25, 2020, a judge or Special Master will consider any disputed case and determine whether a person will be released. Disputed cases will be decided based on written submissions by the prosecutor and the Public Defender. If the court decides that a hearing is necessary, the incarcerated person’s presence will be waived at the hearing.
The standard of proof is that release is presumed unless the court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that the release of the person would pose a significant risk to the person or the public. If the court rules in favor of release, the incarcerated person must be released without delay.
Adverse decisions may be appealed and will be reviewed by the Appellate Division on an expedited basis. If release is denied and an appeal is unsuccessful, the incarcerated person will continue to serve their sentence.
I was released under the emergency order. What else do I need to know?
Anyone released pursuant to the Court Order must abide by special conditions of probation to promote public safety arising from the emergency health situation. These conditions include:
- No contact-order remain in force;
- Driver’s license suspensions remain in force;
- In-person reporting to probation officers shall be converted to telephone or video reporting;
- All persons released must comply with all Federal, State and local laws, directives, orders, rules, and regulations regarding conduct during the declared emergency, including limits imposed on travel and “social distancing,” issued during the emergency associated with COVID-19.
What happens to the rest of my sentence?
The release has been ordered in the interest of health and public safety and to flatten the curve of new cases of the COVID-19 virus. In short, county jail sentences will not just go away. If you are serving a county jail sentence as a condition of probation, the custodial portion of the sentence will be served at the conclusion of the probationary portion of the sentence, or, converted into a “time served” sentence, at the discretion of the sentencing judge. Simply stated, it is up to the Judge to decide whether or not you will need to go back in to finish the sentence or it will be deemed “time served”
If you are serving a county jail sentence as a result of a municipal court conviction, the custodial portion of the sentence is suspended until further order of the New Jersey Supreme Court after the COVID-19 health emergency is declared ended, or, if deemed satisfied at the discretion of the municipal court judge who imposed the sentence.
If you have a family member serving a county jail sentence, they are eligible to be released from custody as a result of the COVID-19 health emergency. In Burlington County, the Prosecutor has objected to the release of 70% of those eligible, and 40% of those eligible statewide have been denied release. Although those denied immediate release will be represented by the Office of the Public Offender, if you or someone you know has questions about the Supreme Court Order, and whether they are eligible for release, feel free to contact Rosenberg│Perry & Associates. We are eager and happy to help answer your questions during this difficult time.