Update, May 6: Courts and Law Enforcement Respond to Coronavirus


In light of the national emergency due to the outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19), courts and law enforcement agencies at every level of Government have taken extraordinary actions:



  • The New Jersey Supreme Court previously ordered that sentencing hearings may proceed via remote technology (video or telephone) only with the consent of all parties. The New Jersey Judiciary now has issued guidance for Criminal, Family/Juvenile, and Municipal courts to conduct sentencing hearings where the parties have consented to proceed.
  • Courts are now authorized to stay the commencement of incarceration, while other provisions of sentences -- fines, restitution, no-contact orders, Megan’s Law registration, Driver’s License Suspension, and reporting to probation -- take effect immediately upon sentencing. When a sentencing court orders a custodial sentence, it must state its reasons on the record for whether to stay the custodial portion or to have it begin immediately, addressing the specific factors of danger to the public, risk of flight, the seriousness of the offense, and other factors relevant to public safety, as well as the positions of the defendant, the state, and victims. Notably, courts are directed to “consider” staying sentencing hearings when incarceration to county jail or state prison is contemplated and to “consider” staying the commencement of incarceration when it is imposed. That language suggests that the Judiciary would prefer immediate incarceration to be imposed only when the above-referenced factors clearly weigh in favor of it.
  • The directive also adjusts procedures in light of conducting hearings where all parties are physically separated. It authorizes defense counsel to obtain the defendant’s consent to sign the Notice of Appeal Rights and Post-Conviction Relief forms on their behalf. It instructs defense counsel to review the Presentence Investigation Report (PSI) with the defendant before the hearing and to provide Probation with the defendant's contact information during the hearing so Probation may conduct the defendant’s intake interview remotely immediately upon completion of the hearing. It also provides that victims and the defendant's family have an opportunity to participate in the hearing or object to the scheduling or method of the proceeding.
  • For more information, see our prior posts.
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