Pretrial Services — Judicial Business 2019
The number of cases opened in the pretrial services system (excluding pretrial diversion cases) equaled 108,163, an increase of 9 percent from 2018. Pretrial diversion cases rose 1 percent to 443.
In 42 percent of the cases opened, the major offense was related to immigration, up from 40 percent in 2018. Cases in which the major offense charged involved drugs accounted for 25 percent of pretrial services cases (unchanged from 2018). Cases associated with property offenses represented 9 percent of cases opened (down from 10 percent), and cases dealing with firearms offenses represented 11 percent (up 1 percent from 2018).
Pretrial services officers prepare reports for judges to use in determining whether to order the release or detention of defendants. The reports also give judges information useful for establishing appropriate conditions for released defendants. In 2019, officers prepared 103,092 pretrial services reports (up 8 percent). Ninety-seven percent of the reports were pre-bail reports.
A total of 97,784 bail determinations were made by the courts. Including immigration cases involving crimes such as illegal reentry, 23 percent of all defendants were released on bail. When immigration cases are excluded, the percentage of defendants released was 35 percent.
A total of 26,116 defendants were received for supervision by pretrial services (up 10 percent). The proportion of defendants in the country illegally continued to affect the number of persons received for supervision, because illegal aliens and defendants charged with immigration offenses are more likely to be detained given their higher risk of failure to appear in court. In 2019, 46 percent of defendants in pretrial services cases were illegal aliens.
For persons under pretrial services supervision, officers monitor compliance with the release conditions set by the courts, provide necessary support services (such as substance abuse treatment and location monitoring), and inform the courts and U.S. attorneys of apparent violations of release conditions. A total of 28,880 defendants were released with specified conditions in 2019. The release condition ordered most often was pretrial services supervision, which was imposed on 88 percent of defendants released, down 1 percent from last year.
Substance abuse treatment and testing were ordered for 42 percent of defendants, up 1 percent from 2018. Substance abuse testing alone (without treatment) was ordered for 13 percent of defendants, down 1 percent from the previous year.
Pretrial diversion is a period of supervision proposed by a U.S. attorney and agreed to by a defendant as an alternative to the prosecution of criminal charges in federal court. Diversion preserves prosecutorial and judicial resources for more serious criminal matters. In 2019, the number of pretrial diversion cases activated increased 1 percent to 443 and accounted for less than 1 percent of activated cases.
Over the past five years, the number of pretrial services reports prepared has increased 13 percent, and the number of persons interviewed also has grown 13 percent to 57,264 (not all defendants are interviewed—defendants may decline to be interviewed, and sometimes interviews are not possible—but for each defendant, a pretrial services report is usually written).