Pretrial services are procedures designed to prepare cases for trial in court. They are operated at the county level in Texas. Their main function is to determine the risk of a defendant, to recommend conditions for release, and to provide supervision of defendants that have been released before their trial.
Pretrial release is for defendants who have been arrested and charged by Tarrant County, Texas with a felony or class A or B misdemeanor charge. Those who are considered a significant flight risk or a danger to the community are less likely to be released. The court can grant pretrial release on a personal bond—a form of bail whereby the defendant is not required to post any collateral (cash, assets, etc.) as security—on some felonies and class A or B misdemeanor charges. The type of charges against the defendant, whether they pose any danger to others, their criminal history, their standing within the community, their employment history, and any family members who depend on them may be factored into whether they qualify for pretrial release.
A defendant will be interviewed by Pretrial Services in order to find out if they should be released on a personal bond, also known as a “signature bond” because all that is required is a signature whereby the defendant agrees to show up to their court date and abide by any conditions in their release.
After release, a defendant in Tarrant County may be required to pay a personal bond fee. The defendant must avoid breaking the law and abide by any other conditions set by the judge. The defendant must also check in with Pretrial Services—usually at least once per month. Pretrial Services is more akin to parole in the way that the defendant is out of jail, but not free from restrictions.
While the defendant is not required to pay the full bail amount, in Tarrant Country, a fee may be assessed if the court is releasing the defendant on a personal bond due to the recommendation of a personal bond office. Pretrial release programs are funded using local taxpayer money, with the average budget for most programs exceeding $1 million.
The taxpayer is completely liable for any costs that are incurred for pretrial release. While it is true that the cost of housing the defendant in jail prior to trial is saved, if the defendant skips bail, the taxpayer must also cover the costs associated with re-arrest. This is in addition to the taxpayer paying for pretrial release programs in Texas. When a defendant uses a bail bondsman for their pretrial release, the bail bondsman is responsible for ensuring the defendant appears in court.
If pretrial release is granted, all defendants must report to the Pretrial Services once per month between the 1st and the 15th of the month. The majority of defendants charged with misdemeanors must report by mail and most defendants charged with felonies must report in person.
If the defendant does not abide by the conditions of pretrial release, including reporting to Pretrial Services, then they will face consequences. An arrest warrant will be issued, and bail conditions may be set even higher, or not granted at all. One particular benefit of hiring a bail bond agency is that the bail bondsman will monitor the defendant while they are on pretrial release and ensure they report to the appropriate parties.
The conditions of pretrial release apply until the defendant enters into a plea bargain and is sentenced or goes to trial and faces either acquittal or conviction.
In Texas, defendants have the legal right to have their trial within a certain amount of time. For a felony it is 180 days. If the defendant is charge with a misdemeanor that is punishable by imprisonment for more than 180 days, the trial must occur within 90 days. If the defendant is charged with a misdemeanor punishable by 180 days or less, or punishable by a fine alone, the trial must occur within 60 days.
If you miss a court date, then you should contact the court and, if applicable, your bail bondsman immediately. Some leeway may be granted under special circumstances (natural disaster, accident, death of a family member), but normally an arrest warrant would be issued and any collateral put up for the pretrial bond release in Texas (cash, property or vehicle titles) could be subject to forfeiture.
Pretrial release in Texas can come with numerous conditions that extend beyond the need for the defendant to show up at their court date for trial. There could be provisions for drug testing, avoiding alcohol, attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, or completing a rehabilitation program. Other conditions could include a restraining order, wearing an electronic monitoring device, not carrying weapons, maintaining employment, avoiding known criminal associates, not traveling outside the state or country without permission, or a curfew.
Failure to comply with any of the conditions of your release could result in an arrest warrant being issued, a swift return to jail, and fulfillment of the agreement to pay the court the full bail amount. Conditions might include drug or alcohol tests, a restraining order, anger management classes, etc. Pretrial release in Texas is similar to parole in that the defendant is required to abide by a set of conditions.
In Tarrant County, defendants that are charged with most Class A and B misdemeanor offenses are considered eligible for release on a personal bond (also known as a signature bond).
The first court appearance is known as the arraignment where the defendant and their lawyer learn about the accusations.
The state must first show that they have probable cause in order to make an arrest. Following this, comes the arraignment where the indictment gets filed by the state in court. The defendant will learn about the exact charges against them. Typically, almost all defendants will plead “not guilty,” even if they plan on negotiating a guilty plea later on.
After this, there could be pretrial motions. These could include motions for a bill of particulars, motion for a new judge, motion for a change of venue, motion to quash arrest and suppress evidence, motion to suppress statements, and anything else that an attorney might suggest.
If you were arrested on a felony charge, you may still be eligible for a personal bond. Tarrant County courts will consider defendants charged with second- or third-degree felonies that are non-violent in nature. All cases are reviewed on an individual basis and eligibility for a personal bond will hinge on whether you are a flight risk and whether you are a danger to the community.
If pretrial release programs were more highly selective in granting defendants with the least likelihood to skip bail personal bonds, pretrial release would be an effective system. As it stands, however, with crowded jails, many defendants who should not be granted pretrial release are given bail. Pretrial Service bonds have been noted to have the highest skip ratios among bonds in studies done in some counties of Texas. When these individuals skip bail, the taxpayer is unfairly saddled with the costs of re-arresting them. The defendant is also liable for the full amount of bail, but it obviously poses great difficulty for the state to collect this money, as well.
Fortunately, when a defendant is required to place cash or collateral on the line in order to receive bail, the taxpayer is not the one responsible. If a bail bondsman is covering bail, they have a personal incentive to ensure the defendant does not skip out on bail.
In fact, a study of more than 22,000 defendants reached the conclusion that those released by bail bond companies were more likely to show up to their hearing than those who obtained pretrial release, posted cash, or used other options. The study also showed that bail bonds were also the most cost-effective. This is because bail bond companies have an obligation to ensure that clients make it to their court dates, or they are liable for the full bond amount.
At PCS Bail Bonds, our bail bond agents are always on-call. While most local court systems can take hours to process paperwork, we can have it done in a fraction of the time and be down to the jail in as little as 30 minutes. Contact us today to learn how we can help you through the bail bond process.