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What is the California division of Pretrial Assessment Services?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Apr 26, 2019 | 0 Comments

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Defendants with a low-risk grade may be freed from jail on their own recognizance pending trial

Pretrial Assessment Services (PAS) is a division of California criminal courts that determines whether newly-arrested defendants should remain in jail or get released on their own recognizance (OR) while they are pending trial.

PAS conducts "pretrial risk assessments" of newly-arrested people to determine whether they are at a low-, medium-, or high-risk of:

  • hurting someone else if they are released from custody on their own recognizance, or
  • missing future court appearances if they are released from custody on their own recognizance.

Defendants with a low-risk grade may be freed from jail on their OR pending trial. Meanwhile, medium-risk defendants may or may not get released from jail - PAS holds a pre-arraignment review to make this decision. Finally, high-risk defendants remain in jail pending the trial.

Depending on the outcome of a 2020 California referendum, Pretrial Assessment Services may become a part of every California court. And, if so, defendants in California criminal cases will no longer have the opportunity to bail out of jail, or pay money as a condition of release.

As noted above, California's Pretrial Assessment Services holds a “pre-arraignment review” to determine if medium-risk defendants can get released from jail pending trial. As the term implies, this review is held prior to a defendant's arraignment – usually within 24 hours of the defendant's booking.

Please note that PAS can recommend either:

  • OR release,
  • supervised OR release, or
  • detention.

What is the California division of Pretrial Assessment Services?

PAS conducts "pretrial risk assessments" of newly-arrested people to determine whether they are at a low-, medium-, or high-risk of:

  • hurting someone else if they are released from custody on their OR, or
  • missing future court appearances if they are released from custody on their OR.

Defendants with a low-risk grade may be freed from jail on their own recognizance pending trial. Meanwhile, medium-risk defendants may or may not get released from jail - PAS holds a pre-arraignment review to make this decision. Finally, high-risk defendants remain in jail pending their trial.

Pretrial risk assessments are based on a validated risk assessment tool that is backed by science and shown to be reliable for calculating a person's risk level.

Please note that people arrested for misdemeanors generally get released from jail without first getting a pretrial risk assessment. The only exception is if the misdemeanor charge was for either the California crime of:

  • stalking,
  • domestic battery,
  • corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant, or
  • violation of a protective order if the defendant allegedly either:
  • made threats to kill or harm the victim,
  • engaged in violence against the victim, or
  • went to the victim's residence or workplace.

How might the 2020 referendum impact California's Pretrial Assessment Services?

Senate Bill 10 was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in August of 2018. According to this bill:

  • every California criminal court must have a PAS division, and
  • defendants in California criminal cases will no longer have the opportunity to bail out of jail, or pay money as a condition of release.

The law was supposed to go into effect in the fall of 2019, but now its ultimate passage will be determined by California voters in the 2020 referendum. If adopted, the above bullet points will become valid California law.

What is a pre-arraignment review in California?

As noted above, California's Pretrial Assessment Services holds a pre-arraignment review to determine if medium-risk defendants can get released from jail pending trial.

During a pre-arraignment review, PAS decides whether to either:

  • release defendants on their OR,
  • release defendants on supervised OR, or
  • continue jailing defendants pending their trial.

Like it sounds, a pre-arraignment review takes place prior to the arraignment (or, the formal filing of charges). Specifically, these reviews must occur within 24 hours of a defendant's booking. However, they can be postponed for an additional 12 hours for good cause shown.

What happens in cases of OR release?

Defendants granted OR release by PAS pose a low- or medium-risk of hurting others or missing future court appearances. OR defendants must do the following:

  • appear at every required court hearing,
  • stay in California unless the court gives permission to leave,
  • waive extradition if the defendant misses court and gets arrested outside California, and
  • obey all court orders.

What happens in cases of supervised OR release?

Defendants granted supervised OR release pose a medium-risk of hurting others or missing future court appearances. Supervised OR release is different from regular OR release in that it imposes extra conditions that a defendant must follow. Common examples of these conditions include:

  • a 9:00 p.m. curfew,
  • unannounced drug and alcohol testing,
  • avoiding contact with certain people and locations,
  • attending rehab,
  • wearing a California SCRAM alcohol-detection bracelet,
  • submitting to police searches and seizures, and
  • electronic monitoring.

The PAS is required to impose the least restrictive condition(s) necessary to reasonably assure the safety of the public and the defendant's return to court.

What happens in cases of detention?

Defendants ordered to remain in jail pending the outcome of their case pose either a medium-risk or high-risk of hurting others or missing court appearances. These persons must remain in jail until their case has been resolved.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.

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