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Pretrial services is required to prepare a Public Safety Assessment (“PSA”) whenever someone is taken into custody on a warrant complaint. This document is a risk assessment tool used to evaluate pretrial release of someone who has been taken into custody. The PSA is provided to the judge responsible for determining whether a defendant should be released or detained at the time of a first appearance or even following a detention hearing. The attorneys at our firm are highly experienced in this phase of a criminal case and are available to assist you with question anytime 24/7. If you would like a free consultation with one of the New Jersey Criminal Lawyers at the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall, call 877-450-8031.
What Is A PSA?
A PSA is a risk evaluation tool that utilizes algorithm to assess the risks associated with releasing an individual prior to trial. There are nine (9) factors that are taken into account by the algorithm to arrive at a risk score utilizing prior historical data. The factors utilized in the PSA are:
- Violence involved in the current offense;
- Pending charges;
- Prior disorderly persons offense convictions;
- Prior indictable convictions;
- Prior violent crime convictions;
- Failures to appear during the last 2 years;
- Failures to appear more than 2 years ago; and
- Prior sentences of incarceration exceeding 14 days or more.
How Is Risk Measured In A PSA?
There are two types of risk that are assessed in a PSA. Both are measured on a scale of 1 to 6 with 6 being worst and 1 being best. The first type of risk measured in the PSA is – risk of new criminal activity if released. The second risk is – risk of failing to appear on his/her charges if released.
In terms of risk of new criminal activity, the score is likely to get worse as a defendant’s prior criminal record becomes more extensive. The same is true when it comes to risk of failure to appear. If an individual has a history of not appearing on prior criminal charges, his/her score is likely to be poor. There is also a significant enhancement in a score if an individual’s prior history includes violence. This is commonly referred to as a New Violent Criminal Activity (“NVCA”) Flag.
A staff member of Pretrial Services interviews the defendant at the jail and inputs all of the necessary information into the PSA platform. The information is fed through the algorithm and the risk scores are generated. Below is a breakdown of the percentage of risk associated with corresponding score levels contained in the PSA.
|Risk of Failure to Appear||Risk of New Criminal Activity|
When Is Someone Released As A Result Of A PSA?
The PSA is a decision making tool to assist pretrial services in formulating a recommendation on pretrial release. There is no set rule on when a score translates in pretrial release or how conditions are to be imposed. There is, however, a Decision Making Framework (“DMF”) that has been established by the New Jersey Administrative Offices of the Court and it can be found by clicking here. The DMF provides a guide as to when release should be recommended and, if so, the related Pretrial Monitoring Level (“PML”) that is applicable. You should know that the overall presumption under the law is that someone should be released unless the new charge involves an offense that carries life imprisonment (e.g. murder, aggravated sexual assault, human trafficking or leader of a narcotics trafficking network). It is also important to know that the DMF guide indicates that there should be no recommendation for release if:
- The new charge involves an offense such as escape, aggravated manslaughter, aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault, first degree robbery, carjacking, possession of a firearm for unlawful purposes, certain persons not possess a firearm or unlawful possession of a weapon;
- The new charge involves an offense of violence and the defendant has a prior conviction for a violent crime;
- The defendant has at least two pending cases in addition to the new arrest; or
- The NCA or FTA score is 6.
The image below is a copy of the decision making chart that is to be applied by Pretrial Services under a number of other scenarios.
What Are The Pretrial Monitoring Levels If Someone Is Released From Custody?
The court may impose conditions to an individual’s release. The defendant must comply with these conditions to avoid incarceration for violating his/her pretrial release. The headings below outline the Pretrial Monitoring Levels:
- ROR (no conditions)
- Level I. Phone reporting once a month.
- Level II. Phone reporting once a month and in person reporting once a month (i.e. alternate method every two weeks).
- Level III. Weekly reporting with in person and telephone alternating.
- Level III Plus. Same as Level III with the addition of electronic monitoring.
How Is The PSA Used By The Court?
The PSA is a tool used by the Superior Court judge presiding over an Initial Appearance. The recommendations of Pretrial Services are important but not overriding. The judge is free to make his/her own call regarding whether or not to release, as well as any conditions imposed.
Contact Our New Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyers About The Public Safety Assessment In Your Case
A public safety assessment is persuasive when it comes to decisions at initial appearances but certainly not the end of the line in terms of whether someone is released. The judge handling the hearing has the last say on what happens to you so representation by a skilled attorney is important. A lawyer who is knowledgeable in pretrial practice is going to know what and how to argue on your behalf so that pretrial release is granted and conditions are minimized. The attorneys at our firm, the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall, are here to serve you in this role. To obtain a free consultation with one of the lawyers immediately, call 877-450-8301.
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