Monday, July 13, 2009

Pretrial Release programs operate in two manners: either a Judge orders a defendant into the program or jail staff place defendants into the program without ever seeing a Judge - this is called "administrative" release. In several states, administrative release is being challenged legally as unconstitutional as statutes clearly state that only a "judicial officer" can make a release decision.
Nor are pretrial release staff "certifying" to the Court that they have investigated a defendant's history in order to make an informed release decision.

In Orange County, Florida, defendants may be released administratively into the Pretrial Release program if the program certifies to the Court that is has investigated and verified the following information on each defendant:
  • The circumstances of the accused person's family, employment, financial resources, character, mental condition and length of residency in the community;
  • The accused person's record of convictions, appearances at court proceedings, or flight to avoid court proceedings, or failure to appear at court proceedings;
  • Other factors necessary to assist the court in its determination of the indigence of the accused person and whether he/she should be released under the supervision of the Pretrial Release program; and
  • The accused person must reside in or own real property in the State of Florida, and this fact must be verified

Based upon a criminal history investigation, the accused person must meet the following qualifications to be eligible for release under the Pretrial Release program based on an Administrative Order issued by the Chief Judge:

  • The accused person has not been found guilty of a violent felony within the last ten years;
  • The accused person has not been found guilty of a felony in the past two years;
  • The accused person has not served a sentence in a state or federal correction system, excluding jails, within the last ten years;
  • The accused person is not currently on bail (monetary or non-monetary) or other legal constrain;
  • When considering a defendant arrested on a traffic charge, the accused person has not been convicted twice for DUI in the last five years and has not been arrested for DUI in the last 12 months;
  • The accused person has not willfully and knowingly failed to appear and has not been arrested at any time following the forfeiture of a bond in the case at issue;
  • The accused person has not failed to appear in any other case in the last two years, or more than once in the last five years, as evidenced by the issuance of a capias, unless there is evidence that the failures to appear were not willful; and
  • The accused person has not exhibited mental illness or behavior indicating he/she might cause harm to himself/herself or other individuals, unless such individual is released with a Baker Act to an appropriate receiving facility.

It takes time and effort to obtain this detailed information, yet defendants are quickly released administratively in to the Pretrial Release program, many who have lengthy prior criminal and/or driving offense histories, failures to appear and violations of probation.

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