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Both parties seem to approve proposed bail amendment

New Jersey's Republican governor Chris Christie has had his share of problems with the Democratic legislature. They have fought over tax cuts and higher education reform, among many contentious issues. One of Christie's proposals, however, has sparked very little controversy: his proposal to amend the state constitution to allow judges to deny bail to violent offenders appears to be supported by Democrats and Republicans alike.

A former prosecutor, Christie would like to give judges in New Jersey the option of denying bail to defendants who pose a danger to the community. New York and New Jersey are the only two states in the U.S. without laws allowing judges to consider the probability that a defendant will commit a violent crime when determining bail.

The proposed constitutional amendment is supported by New Jersey prosecutors and police chiefs who believe that the change will keep violent criminals off the streets while awaiting witnesses to come forward and testify.

The amendment is being sponsored by Senator Donald Norcross, a Democrat from the crime-ridden city of Camden. Some lawyers, however, are concerned that judges might feel compelled to jail everyone accused of a violent crime, resulting in increased law enforcement costs and leave the system vulnerable to lawsuits from people later acquitted.

Both chambers of the New Jersey legislature must approve the proposed amendment with a 60 percent majority if the amendment is to move forward to the voters in November.

Source: Phladelhia Inquirer, "N.J. looks to restrict bail for violent offenders," by Joelle Farrell, June 14, 2012.

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