Monday, November 9, 2009

Orange County, Florida Jail: Administrative Pretrial Release Function Revoked

Administrative pretrial release, which allowed jail staff to release defendants without any judicial involvement, has been revoked by the Chief Judge after the private surety bail industry made elected officials and the public aware that defendants charged with serious and repeat offenses were routinely being released through the program. Tax dollars are used to manage and support such release.

Belvin Perry, Jr., Chief Judge of the Ninth Judicial Circuit in Orlando, Florida, amended his administrative order to prohibit release into the pretrial release program until initial appearance in front of a judge. Prior to this amended order, jail staff would release defendants charged with serious and/or repeat criminal and traffic offenses as delegated by the administrative order and the Chief of Corrections. Many of the released defendants had prior lengthy criminal and traffic histories, failures to appear and violations of probation.

Effective November 5, 2009, all defendants not released on a cash or surety bond within 24 hours of arrest, will attend an initial court appearance where a judge will make an informed release decision based on the criminal/driving history of the defendant, economic/social status, residency etc. The history provided to the judge must be certified as accurate by the pretrial release program.

A week prior to amending the administrative order, a Petition for Common Law Writ of Certiorari was filed with the 5th District Court of Appeal on behalf of Accredited challenging the administrative release process by non-judicial staff. The amended order validates Accredited's position that pretrial release must be a solely judicial decision. Judges are elected officials and accountable to the voters; jail staff and other "lay" individuals are not.

Bail agents work and live in our communities and take the issue of public safety very seriously. Bail agents are financially and physically responsible for defendants released on bail and integrate a defendant's family and friends into the bail contract. A much higher level of supervision is given to defendants released on bail without using any taxpayer funds. National studies have shown that private surety bail is the most efficient and effective method of pretrial release and guarantees a defendant's appearance in court.

Public policy affects public safety!

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