Confidentiality of Pretrial Services Information:
Title 18 U.S.C. Section 3153 and the regulations found in the Guide to Judiciary Policies and Procedures, Vol. XII, Ch. III defines the rules of confidentiality that restrict the use of pretrial services information.
Information obtained during the performance of pretrial services functions is confidential and shall be used only for purposes of bail determination. Information supplied by the defendant during the course of the investigation is not admissible on the issue of guilt and can only be used against the defendant in the event of perjury or false statements made in an attempt to obtain release, and for failure to appear on the instant offense.
Pretrial services reports are submitted to the court before the initial hearing and prior to subsequent hearings where release or detention is considered. The reports are available to the attorney for the government and defense counsel at all proceedings that concern release or detention. No other party (except the defendant) shall have access to the reports (e.g., agents or the U.S. marshals service). There are five exceptions to the rules of confidentiality that permit release of information to:
Qualified persons for research purposes;
Persons who are under contract to the pretrial services office, such as treatment centers, counseling services, and halfway houses;
Probation officers for the purpose of preparing presentence reports;
The U.S. attorney and the attorney for the accused for pretrial diversion purposes;and
Law enforcement agencies in limited cases for law enforcement purposes (e.g., defendants who abscond).
Your first appearance in court is called the Initial Appearance (IA). If arrested, your IA will take place as soon as possible. If you are summoned to court, your court date will appear on your summons or ticket.
At the IA, the Judge will:
- Inform you of your charges
- Appoint you an attorney (based on need and qualification)
- Set the next court date
- Make a release decision
If you are detained at the IA, your next hearing will be a Detention Hearing (DH). At this hearing, the Judge will decide whether or not to release you.
At the detention hearing, you may also have a Preliminary Hearing (PH). The Judge will decide if there is enough evidence for the case to proceed. Usually, only felony cases will have a PH. Your attorney will be present for both the DH and the PH.
If you are released at the IA and charged with a misdemeanor, your next hearing will be a Status Hearing. At that time, the judge will set your next court date.
For persons charged with a felony, after your PH your case will be given to the grand jury. The grand jury will review evidence and decide whether or not to indict you. Being indicted means a grand jury believes a crime has been committed and you are probably the person who committed that crime. Once indicted, you will be arraigned. At the arraignment, you will enter a plea and the Judge will set a trial date.
Before the trial, there may be hearings to address motions and evidence (discovery).
In both misdemeanor and felony cases, the next hearing will be the trial. At this point, you will either be acquitted, found guilty, or enter a plea of guilty. If you are acquitted, your case is terminated. If found guilty or you plead guilty, you must proceed to the U.S. Probation Office following your court hearing for a Presentence Investigation (PSI). This investigation will help assist the Judge in determining your sentence.
If you are found guilty, your next hearing will be the sentencing. At your hearing, the judge will tell you your sentence.
After all hearings, if you are on pretrial services supervision, you are to report to Pretrial Services Office.
Before you appear in front of a Judge, you will be interviewed by a Pretrial Services Officer (PSO). You will be questioned about your family, residential, employment, financial, educational, health and criminal history. You will not be questioned about the charge(s) nor should you discuss them with the PSO.
After the interview, the information will be verified through other sources, such as family members, employers, and probation officers. All information obtained by the PSO is confidential and is used only for release purposes. The information will not be used to determine guilt or innocence.
A pretrial services report is submitted to the Judge and copies are provided to the prosecutor and to you and your attorney. Included in the report is an assessment of your risk of nonappearance at future court hearings and the potential danger you pose to the community.
The report also contains a recommendation to the Court regarding your release. The PSO will recommend the least restrictive release conditions which would reasonably assure your return to court and the safety of the community.
The Pretrial Services Office provides the judge with verified and reliable defendant information necessary to:
- Make informed release or detention decisions
- Reduce unnecessary detention
- Provide the court with alternatives to detention
- Supervise persons released on pretrial services supervision
Pretrial Services Officers (PSO) are officers of the Court and work for the Judge. They are not law enforcement agents or attorneys.
After the IA or DH, you must go to the following places. If you were arrested, you will return to lockup to be processed out by the U.S. Marshals Service. Next, proceed to the Clerk's Office where a deputy clerk will read the order of release to you. You must sign it before you are released. If you were summoned to court, you will proceed to the Clerk's Office and sign your order of release.
Every defendant is released with conditions. The two standard conditions are: 1) not violate any law; and 2) appear in court as directed. You must not change residence without notifying the court. Some defendants may have additional conditions of release to reasonably assure their return to future court appearances and the safety of the community, e.g., drug testing. If you have the condition of pretrial services supervision, you must go to the Pretrial Services Office housed. This is the same office that interviewed you and prepared the bond report for the Judge. At the Pretrial Services Office you will be assigned to an officer who will supervise you.
At your first meeting, the officer will:
- explain your conditions of release
- explain the consequences of noncompliance (e.g., jail, new charges, more restrictive conditions)
- tell you your next court date
- give you instructions on when and how to report
- set up a home visit.
Rules of Court
When coming to court:
- Arrive early for hearings. Make sure you are in the right courtroom by consulting the calendar by the front door.
- Meet with your attorney.
- Dress appropriately: no shorts, sandals, tank tops, or hats in the courtrooms.
- You must pass through a metal detector immediately upon entering the courthouse.
- Leave pagers, cellular phones, personal computers, pocket knives, mace on key rings, or any other potential weapon in your car.
- No food, drinks, chewing gum, etc. in the courtrooms.
- Fines, special assessments, and restitution may be paid for with cash, personal check, or money order.
The Federal System
A person appears in federal court if they are charged with a federal offense. The person will be summoned to court or arrested.
The categories for federal offenses are:
- A petty offense is a crime punishable by six months or less in jail.
- A misdemeanor offense is a crime punishable by a prison sentence of one year or less.
- A felony offense is a crime punishable by a year or more in prison.