This article examines an unaddressed issue regarding New Jersey’s sentencing precedent and the Criminal Justice Reform Act. The issue concerns whether the presumption of detention applies to a defendant with no prior record who is charged with a “life-sentence-eligible” offense other than murder. The article makes the case that the presumption of detention has been misapplied and overused in the case of defendants with no prior records.

New Jersey’s pretrial release statute, N.J.S.A. 2A:162-19b, reads: “When a motion for pretrial detention is filed pursuant to subsection a. of this section, there shall be a rebuttable presumption that the eligible defendant shall be detained pending trial because no amount of monetary bail, non-monetary condition or combination of monetary bail and conditions would reasonably assure the eligible defendant’s appearance in court when required, the protection of the safety of any other person or the community, and that the eligible defendant will not obstruct or attempt to obstruct the criminal justice process, if the court finds probable cause that the eligible defendant: (1) committed murder pursuant to N.J.S. 2C:ll-3; or (2) committed any crime for which the eligible defendant would be subject to an ordinary or extended term of life imprisonment (emphasis added). 

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