Judicial Surgery Saves Bail Jumping Statute – State v. Emmons
The offense of bail jumping (NJSA 2C:29-7) can be either a disorderly persons offense or a crime, depending upon the original offense with which the defendant was charged. Bail jumping occurs when a person who has been charged with an offense under the Code of Criminal Justice or any other offense (including traffic violations) where a jail term is authorized knowingly fails to appear for a court date without lawful excuse. Because the law as written appears to place a burden upon the defendant to prove that his failure to appear in court was not done knowingly, the Appellate Division in the case of State v. Emmons was asked to rule on the statute’s constitutionality. In order to save the statute, the Court performed a measure of “judicial surgery” and eliminated the need for a defendant to prove the affirmative defense as set forth in the law and ruled that the bail jumping law is not void for vagueness.
The defense and prosecution of future bail jumping cases in both municipal and Superior Courts will have to conform the re-defined elements of the offense as expressed by the Appellate Division in this case.
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