One of the main functions of the Second Judicial District Court Pretrial Services Division ("PTS") is to supervise defendants awaiting trial to ensure that they will appear in court as scheduled and comply with conditions of release.
A judge determines whether a defendant is eligible for PTS and whether certain services, such as drug or alcohol testing, GPS, Soberlink, or mental health counseling, will be required as part of the PTS supervision services. The judge enters the Order Setting Conditions of Release (OSCOR) either at arraignment or at some later stage of the case.
A defendant may be ordered to PTS either by way of third-party release wherein the defendant is signed out of jail by PTS or by the defendant being directly released to PTS. If a defendant is directly released to PTS, they accept the defendant. If PTS believes that the defendant is not an appropriate candidate for PTS, they notify the Court and a hearing is set up. Whereas PTS does not second guess the judge's order, they may discover information, such as the defendant having cut off an ankle bracelet in the past, that would undermine the defendant's ability to succeed in PTS.
If a defendant is authorized for PTS via third-party release (via the jail), PTS conducts an evaluation to determine whether the defendant should be accepted from the jail. As part of the assessment that determines whether a defendant will be accepted by PTS, PTS staff evaluates several factors, including whether the defendant has appropriate housing, whether the defendant can benefit from various services available in PTS (mental health services, substance abuse or other counseling services, workforce training, etc.), the risk to the community, and community ties. For example, a defendant may not be accepted to PTS if there is a significant past history of non-compliance with pretrial conditions, absconding, serious mental health issues, or clear evidence that the defendant poses a threat to another, such as a long history of domestic violence.
Regardless of which path a defendant takes into PTS, PTS staff then conducts an assessment to determine the appropriate level of supervision. This assessment involves determining the frequency of reporting to PTS and the frequency of drug-testing or other services which are applicable to the defendant in question, as ordered by the Court. The levels of supervision imposed by PTS range from routine supervision, where a defendant would be required to report to a PTS supervisor once or twice a month (the norm for most defendants), or intense supervision that may require daily interaction. For example, if a defendant has a history of drug abuse or DWI, the frequency of drug testing may be set higher, such as the use of a breath monitoring device daily or multiple times per day.
With regard to GPS monitoring, this must be ordered by the judge as part of the Order Setting Conditions of Release. A defendant ordered to GPS has a device placed at his or her home which sends a beacon to the GPS bracelet. This determines if the defendant is nearby during curfew hours, which in most cases at 8:00 PM to 6:00 AM, unless otherwise ordered by the judge. If the beacon/GPS indicates a defendant is out past curfew, an alert is sent to the defendant, requiring him or her to report to PTS the following morning. If the defendant does not report, a warrant is requested. PTS staff members have no independent authority to arrest, as they are not commissioned law enforcement officers.
GPS for exclusion zones works slightly differently. For defendants who have been ordered to avoid a designated exclusion zone, an alert is sent to an on-call GPS officer whenever the defendant's GPS monitor indicates that a zone violation has occurred. If the defendant does not immediately leave the exclusion zone, the on-call officer will immediately alert law enforcement to come and arrest the defendant.
In either instance, defendants order to use a GPS device are monitored by Pretrial Services around the clock seven days a week.
Again, the purpose of PTS is to ensure that defendants will:
- appear in court as scheduled and
- comply with conditions of release
It is important to note that the number of clients under the supervision of PTS who re-offend is very small, approximately 1-2% based on our latest internal numbers. Re-offense is defined as a client who picks up a new charge while participating in Pretrial Services.