Pre-Trial Services

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Bail reform has increasingly become an important issue over the past 30 years.  One of the main issues addressed by bail reform advocates is idea of holding criminals suspects in jail pending their trial.  Advocates try to further the philosophy of “innocent until proven guilty,” by ensuring the release of certain suspects until their trial date.

In theory, this seems to be a reasonable approach.  After all, if you are in fact innocent until proven guilty, then why should you be required to sit in a jail cell?  Yet, all things considered, there are some individuals who pose such a threat, that society’s interests are better served by keeping these people behind bars.  These dilemmas are those which Pretrial Service systems attempt to address.   In addition, the programs seek to address alternative placement methods of suspects, including mental health facilities or substance abuse treatment programs.

The Pretrial Service systems, which are a part of the judicial system, use specific methods to determine factors such as the suspects’ danger to society and  the likelihood of showing up at their trial.  Through the commercial bail bonding system, almost anyone could be released on bail, as long as they could afford to post the money.  This system did not address the safety of society.  Also, such a system essentially discriminates against anyone who cannot afford the bond price, yet, are not dangerous criminals.  However, through bail reform, the courts take into consideration factors other than money.

Each system could vary slightly by location, however, the general procedure begins first with an interview process.  Once a suspect has been booked, an officer of the pretrial system conducts and investigation and interview process where they perform a background check and criminal history check.   Once this step is complete, the officer will make a recommendation to the court about whether the defendant should be released.  Factors considered include employment, family, education, residence, length of residence, and criminal history.  These factors help the officer and the court determine the defendants danger to society and the likelihood of them returning to court to attend their trial.  If the factors add to presume that the defendant is a flight risk and/or a danger, then a release likely will not be recommended.

If a defendant is released, then an officer will likely supervise them.  This officer ensures that the defendant is not a danger to the community and that they make it to their trial date.  The supervision can include phone calls, visits, and drug testing.

If you would like to know whether your local court has a Pretrial Services system, check their website or contact them.  Visit to find links to websites, online resources, court contact information, and more.

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