Denver's Pretrial Services program helps criminal court judges to determine whether a particular defendant is safe to be released on bond pending the trial and on what conditions. And if the defendant does get released, Pretrial Services may supervise the defendant's whereabouts and sobriety during this "pretrial" period.
Eligibility for supervised pretrial release
Defendants arrested in Denver for minor misdemeanors or petty offenses are often released on their own recognizance or on bail without intervention by Pretrial Services. But if the defendant is facing charges for a felony or class 1 misdemeanor, the Pretrial Investigations Unit will get involved:
The Unit will interview the defendant and compile a criminal history. Ultimately, the Unit calculates a score of the defendant's suitability for supervised pretrial release and prepares bail recommendations to the judge.
Predictably, the Unit is more likely to recommend release for defendants who:
- are not flight risks
- are not violent
- have strong community ties
- demonstrates the willingness to follow court rules
- have the ability to pay for pretrial release (which often includes electronic monitoring in Colorado)
By helping low-risk defendants stay out of jail pending their trial, Pretrial Services is keeping the Denver jails from becoming more overcrowded.
Types of supervised pretrial services
Every defendant who is granted supervised pretrial release is assigned a pretrial officer and has a specific set of rules he/she must comply with.
Courts expect defendants on pretrial supervision to check in regularly with their pretrial officer and have meetings. Pretrial Services helps the court determine how frequently these meetings should be.
Defendants who fail to show up at scheduled meetings may be ordered to jail pending the resolution of the case.
Defendants on pretrial supervision who are facing Colorado DUI or drug charges are expected to abstain from drugs and/or alcohol. Other defendants who have a history of drug or alcohol addiction may also be ordered to stay sober pending the trial.
To ensure sobriety, Pretrial Services may perform unannounced blood or urine tests. The judge may also order that the defendant wear a transdermal alcohol-concentration anklet -- called a TAC -- that continuously monitor's the defendant's blood alcohol level.
Currently Denver relies on a type of TAC bracelet called SCRAM, which is short for "secure continuous remote alcohol monitoring." SCRAMs consist of the bracelet itself and a modem, and they are water-resistant.
These SCRAM bracelets test the person's alcohol level no less than 24 times in a day. And they can detect if the defendant is trying to thwart the reading by placing an object between the bracelet and the skin.
Defendants who violate their orders to stay away from drugs or alcohol may be ordered to jail pending the resolution of the case.
Some defendants on supervised release are ordered to remain indoors at all times on "house arrest." These defendants must wear ankle bracelets that continuously monitor their location.
These bracelets use radio technology to communicate with a base station that the defendant is ordered to hook up through a landline or cell phone line. If the defendant leaves the confines of the house, the base station will record it and notify the pretrial officer.
Defendants who violate their orders to remain indoors at home at all times may be remanded to jail pending the resolution of the case.
Note that people on house arrest may still be able to leave the house to go to meetings, rehab, the doctor, or other locations that the court has already approved. If the defendant leaves for a location that is not pre-approved, he/she could be ordered to jail pending the resolution of the case.
Some defendants may move freely except for certain sensitive locations -- such as an ex-partner's residence or former place of work. This typically occurs if the defendant is facing charges that involve an alleged fight or other conflict with someone else the police are trying to protect.
These defendants wear GPS bracelets that continuously track the defendant's location and are programmed to detect when the defendant is entering an "exclusion zone." If this happens, the police are notified.
Defendants who go to a forbidden "exclusion zone" while under electronic supervision may be ordered to jail pending the resolution of the case.