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  • NJ A3507
  • Transfers authority to regulate bail agents from DOBI to DLPS; requires certain defendants to be eligible for monetary bail upon issuance of complaint-warrant.
In Committee
Crossed OverPassedSignedDead/Failed/Vetoed
2016-2017 Regular Session
The bill establishes a Bail Agent Enforcement Unit within the Department of Law and Public Safety. The bill transfers all of the functions, powers, and duties pertaining to the licensing and oversight of bail agents or agencies from the Department of Banking and Insurance (DOBI) to the Department of Law and Public Safety. The transfer would be subject to the provisions of the "State Agency Transfer Act," P.L.1971, c.375 (C.52:14D-1 et seq.). In addition, the bill amends P.L.2014, c.31 (C.2A:162-15 et seq.), to permit the pretrial detention of defendants charged with a first degree crime and allow defendants charged with lesser offenses the option of being release on monetary bail after a complaint-warrant has been issued. Under the provisions of the bill, the Bail Agent Enforcement Unit is responsible for the licensing and oversight of bail agents or agencies. The Bail Agent Enforcement Unit is to be supervised by a chief of staff appointed by the Attorney General and is to employ field investigators and administrative staff to carry out the functions of the unit. The bill authorizes the unit to ensure bail agents or agencies operate in accordance with current law. The unit also is required to investigate whether a bail agent or agency has committed criminal acts or offenses. In carrying out its functions and duties, the unit is authorized to obtain a court order or warrant to inspect the premises of any bail agency and seize and impound certain records in connection with an investigation. The bill further authorizes the unit to work in coordination with the Superintendent of State Police to facilitate the arrest of any bail agent who engages in illegal activity. The unit is further directed to work in coordination with the Commissioner of DOBI to ensure that each bail agent and agency is complying with all laws relative to the negotiation, solicitation or sale of bail bonds in this State. The bill requires the Bail Agent Enforcement Unit to issue licenses to any bail agent who meets certain criteria. As a condition of licensure, a bail agent would be required to possess and display an identification card displaying the bail agent's photograph, license number, and any other information deemed appropriate by the Attorney General. In addition to completing a training course and passing a written competency exam, applicants for a license must undergo a criminal history record background check. The Bail Agent Enforcement Unit is given the authority to revoke the license of a bail agent under certain conditions. Bail agents licensed prior to the bill's effective date would be entitled to a license issued by the Bail Agent Enforcement Unit and would be deemed in compliance with the education and criminal history requirements established by the bill. The bill also makes it a crime to operate as a bail agent without a license. Under current law, a bail agent is prohibited from selling, soliciting, or negotiating a bail bond unless he or she is licensed to do so. In addition, current law provides for civil penalties that may be imposed against a person who performs these acts without the required license. Under the provisions of this bill, a person commits a crime of the fourth degree if he or she operates as a bail agent or agency without a license. This penalty is to be imposed in addition to any civil penalties imposed under current law. Crimes of the fourth degree are punishable by up to 18 months imprisonment, a fine of up to $10,000, or both. In addition, this bill makes several changes to P.L.2014, c.31, which implemented a recently approved constitutional amendment providing for pretrial detention of certain criminal defendants. (see N.J. Const. (1947), Article I, paragraph 11). Specifically, the bill establishes that defendants only charged with a crime of the first degree may be detained prior to trial and grants defendants charged with lesser offenses the initial option of being released on monetary bail following the issuance of a complaint-warrant. The bill also extends the time period from 48 to 96 hours during which a court is required to make a pretrial release determination for defendants who are ineligible for immediate release. The bill also removes an eligible defendant's ability to be released on an unsecured appearance bond. Unsecured bonds are generally executed when a defendant is released without posting cash or collateral. Under the bill, an eligible defendant may still be released on his or her own recognizance as provided by current law. In addition, the bill allows an eligible defendant to be released on monetary bail if a court finds that the defendant has previously violated non-monetary release conditions or conditions imposed when released on personal recognizance. The bill provides that bail agents are to be liable for the forfeiture of a bail bond resulting from an eligible defendant's violation of non-monetary conditions. Under P.L.2014, c.31, an eligible defendant charged with certain crimes is required to be temporarily detained so that the Pretrial Services Program is able to prepare a risk assessment with recommendations on conditions of release and for the court to issue a pretrial release decision. Currently, defendants who commit the following crimes are eligible for pretrial detention: (1) a crime of the first or second degree enumerated under subsection d. of section 2 of P.L.1997, c.117 (C.2C:43-7.2), part of the State's "No Early Release Act"; (2) a crime for which the eligible defendant would be subject to an ordinary or extended term of life imprisonment; (3) any crime, if previously convicted of two or more crimes described in categories (1) or (2); (4) any criminal sexual offense enumerated under paragraph (2) of subsection b. of section 2 of P.L.1994, c.133 (C.2C:7-2) or crime involving human trafficking pursuant to section 1 of P.L.2005, c.77 (C.2C:13-8) or P.L.2013, c.51 (C.52:17B-237 et al.) when the victim is a minor, or the crime of endangering the welfare of a child under N.J.S.2C:24-4; (5) any crime that imposes a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment and parole ineligibility, due to the use or possession of a firearm while in the course of committing or attempting to commit the crime, as set forth in subsection c. of N.J.S.2C:43-6, part of the Graves Act (P.L.1981, c.31); (6) any crime or offense involving domestic violence as defined in subsection a. of section 3 of P.L.1991, c.261 (C.2C:25-19); and (7) any other crime for which the prosecutor believes there is a serious risk that the eligible defendant would not appear in court, would pose a danger to another person or the community, or would obstruct or attempt to obstruct justice or threaten, injure, or intimidate a prospective witness or juror. Because of the financial burden that may be placed on the Pretrial Services Program, which is required to conduct a risk assessment of individuals charged with these crimes, the bill limits pretrial detention to defendants charged with a crime of the first degree. In addition, this bill establishes that monetary bail is the initial option for release, making all eligible defendants immediately bailable, except for defendants charged with a crime of the first degree or defendants who are unable to post bail.
Judiciary, 2nd Reading in the Assembly
Reported as an Assembly Committee Substitute and Referred to Assembly Appropriations Committee  (on 11/14/2016)
Date Chamber Action Description
11/14/2016 A Reported as an Assembly Committee Substitute and Referred to Assembly Appropriations Committee
11/14/2016 Assembly Judiciary Hearing (10:00 11/14/2016 Committee Room 12, 4th Floor)
4/4/2016 A Introduced, Referred to Assembly Judiciary Committee
Date Motion Yea Nay Other
Detail 11/14/2016 Assembly Judiciary Committee: Reported with Substitution 5 0 2