9 Questions Answered about Pre-Trial Release

Pre-trial release is a procedure that is gaining popularity in different counties across the country. The concept is that defendants who have been arrested for a crime are released from jail until the scheduled date of the trial. Unlike some other options, there is little oversight or accountability after release. It is important to know the following facts about pre-trial release.

1. How Does Pre-Trial Release Work?

Defendants who are awaiting trial are assessed by local government workers. The workers look at the criminal history and decide whether to release the defendant. If released, then the defendant does not have to pay anything or do anything except a promise to show up for the scheduled court date. This applies to defendants accused of both violent and non-violent crimes.

2. Why Are Certain Defendants Released Before Trial?

Certain defendants are released because they are deemed not to be a flight risk. A larger reason for the pre-trial release is to reduce overcrowding in jails and prisons. Unfortunately, a pre-trial release is not applied uniformly across all situations.

3. What Can The Defendant Do After Release?

The defendant is completely free to do nearly anything after release except leave the jurisdiction. Some counties do require defendants to show up regularly for drug testing, counseling, or phone calls.

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4. Who Is Financially Responsible For The Defendant?

The reality is that no one is financially responsible for the defendant. Unlike bail bonds that make the bondsmen and co-signer responsible, the defendant has no financial incentive to follow the rules. This lack of accountability leads some defendants to flee.

5. What Happens If A Defendant Does Not Show Up?

Nothing really happens if a defendant fails to show up beyond issuing a bench warrant. Someone in the pre-trial release program is technically responsible for getting the defendant to court although this person has limited to no enforcement power.

6. Who Pursues The Fugitive?

Technically the police pursue the fugitive defendant. The problem is that police consider the apprehension of the defendant as one of the lowest priorities. This means no one will be aggressively looking for the defendant.

7. Does Pre-Trial Release Have A Financial Cost?

The pre-trial release does have a cost. It is implemented as a local government program. This means taxpayer funds are used to run the program and pay the salaries of the workers. Taxpayers are stuck with the bill for lost time and police time when a defendant fails to show up for court. Most programs have a budget of over $1 million.

8. Are Most People Aware Of Pre-Trial Release?

Most people are not aware of pre-trial release programs or the problems they present. Part of this is because the term is incorrectly used interchangeably with commercial bail. Another reason is that pre-trial release programs receive very little press.

9. Is Pre-Trial Release The Only Option?

An alternative to pre-trial release that is even mentioned in the Constitution is commercial bail. Bail bond companies can help to make certain defendants arrive at court. They also take on some of the financial risks so that taxpayers do not have to. Commercial bail is an effective and established alternative to pre-trial release programs.

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