In federal court, anyone who has either been indicted or has a pending federal criminal charge will have a pretrial hearing to determine if they will be released on bond or bail while their trial case is pending. Prior to this hearing, the person must have an interview with a Pretrial Services officer. This is different from a probation process because it occurs before a determination of innocence or guilt has been made. The Pretrial Services Office performs two functions. First, it makes a recommendation to the judge, prosecutor and defense attorney regarding whether bond or bail should be issued and second it monitors the individual if bond or bail are granted. Each federal court district is served by its own Pretrial Services Office.
Pretrial Services Interview
Prior to the initial detention hearing, a pretrial interview will occur at the Pretrial Services Office. At this interview, the officer will document your basic biographical information and then will:
- Review your prior criminal history;
- The nature of the charges for which you were indicted;
- Your financial situation;
- Mental health history;
- Substance abuse history;
- Physical Health; and
- Your ties to the community.
Ultimately, the officer will determine whether or not you are a flight risk or a danger to the community. This determination is compiled in a report that is submitted to the judge, prosecutor and defense attorney.
To achieve the best outcome, you should have your experienced federal criminal defense attorney present at this interview. He or she can clarify issues and place you in the best position for the pretrial services report. This report often dictates whether or not you will be allowed out on bond or bail while your federal case is pending and you want it to be as favorable as possible.
Pretrial Services Monitoring
If you are released under bond or bail, pretrial services will monitor you to assure that you are in compliance with the terms of your release. Monitoring can take several forms, such as wearing an ankle monitor, reporting in on a weekly basis, taking drug testing, etc.
It is important to have an experienced federal criminal defense attorney to advise you on these issues and maintain open lines of communication with Pretrial Services in the event that there is an issue, such as a positive drug test. Your attorney will provide a reasonable explanation for the violation and hopefully keep you out of prison. The attorney can also protect you preemptively in some situations. For example, often a condition of release is that you stay within a specific geographic area. Your attorney can make a request through the Pretrial Services Office and the judge to allow you to travel outside of this area to for work or special occasions. This allows you to be where you need to be without risking a violation, loss of bond and being placed in jail.
When facing an indictment in federal court, you need more than an experienced criminal defense attorney, you need one who has specific expertise in the federal court system, including pretrial services. Ben Stechschulte is a board certified criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor who has extensive experience representing clients in the federal court system. Let him help you navigate this challenging experience and achieve the best possible results.