The Pretrial Services Unit is normally the first contact a defendant has with the Probation Office. The Pretrial Services officer performs an important service to the Court and the community during this initial contact with the defendant. Innocent until proven guilty is a basic principal of our judicial system. The Pretrial Services Officer, since he or she works primarily with those “accused” of a crime, must fashion their day-to-day activities around this important constitutional concept. The officers must also balance this concept with the reality that the vast majority of the individuals who are charged with a federal criminal offense will either be found guilty or plead guilty and that their release pending adjudication could present either a risk of flight or a danger to the community requiring the fashioning of appropriate release conditions to be recommended to the Court.
To accomplish this balancing act, the Pretrial Services Officer conducts an initial interview with the defendant prior to his or her appearance before the U.S. Magistrate Judge for their initial appearance. The purpose of this report is to investigate the background of the defendant in regards to their ties to the community (i.e., length in the community and family resources), criminal history and any information relative to mental health or substance abuse history. This report is then used to evaluate the threat posed by the defendant. If the defendant is released will he or she flee the jurisdiction of the Court or will the defendant pose any identifiable threat to the community. In addition, the Pretrial Services Officer must determine whether or not any conditions or combination of conditions exists that would reasonably assure that the defendant would appear for further Court proceedings and the safety of the community. Once this determination is made, the officer then recommends what he or she feels are the most effective and least restrictive conditions of release to the Court for imposition.
The Pretrial Services Officer is then responsible for monitoring the defendant in the community and insuring that the defendant is complying with all the conditions of release until such time that he or she either surrenders to an institution to begin his or her sentence or is found not guilty.