RD116 - Report on Pretrial Services Agencies FY2022

Executive Summary:

*This report was replaced in its entirety by the Department of Criminal Justice Services on February 28, 2023.

Localities in Virginia began receiving state funds for pretrial services in 1989, pursuant to authorizing language in the Appropriations Act. This was in response to the findings of the 1989 Commission on Prison and Jail Overcrowding study to develop strategies to improve policies and practices to safely reduce incarceration rates in Virginia.(*1) Among its findings, the Commission on Prison and Jail Overcrowding found that “half of the statewide jail population is awaiting trial or awaiting sentencing." In turn, the Commission recommended that funding be provided to establish pretrial services agencies and to develop a risk assessment instrument for use by judicial officers. The purpose of pretrial services and use of a pretrial risk assessment instrument was intended to provide judicial officers with information to make release decisions at earlier decision points, to provide alternatives to jail to alleviate jail overcrowding, and to improve public safety.

Localities were authorized by statute in 1995 to establish pretrial services agencies with the passage of the Pretrial Services Act.(*2) The purpose of the Pretrial Services Act is “to provide more effective protection of society by establishing pretrial services agencies to assist judicial officers in discharging their duties"(*3) related to determining pretrial release and detention. The Act states “such agencies are intended to provide better information and services for use by judicial officers in determining the risk to public safety and the assurance of appearance of persons … other than an offense punishable as a Class 1 felony, who are pending trial or hearing."(*4)

The duties and responsibilities of pretrial services officers are detailed in § 19.2-152.4:3 of the Code of Virginia. Pretrial services officers are required to provide the following services:

1. Investigate and interview defendants arrested on state and local warrants and who are detained in jails located in jurisdictions served by the agency while awaiting a hearing before any court that is considering or reconsidering pretrial release, at initial appearance, advisement or arraignment, or at other subsequent hearings;

2. Present a pretrial investigation report with recommendations based on information from the pretrial investigation to assist courts in discharging their duties related to granting or reconsidering pretrial release;

3. Supervise and assist all defendants residing within the jurisdictions served and placed on pretrial supervision by any judicial officer within the jurisdictions by ensuring compliance with the terms and conditions of pretrial release;

4. Conduct random drug and alcohol tests on any defendant under supervision for whom a judicial officer has ordered testing or who has been required to refrain from excessive use of alcohol or use of any illegal drug or controlled substance or other defendant-specific condition of bail related to alcohol or substance abuse;

5. Seek a capias from any judicial officer pursuant to § 19.2-152.4:1 for any defendant placed under supervision or the custody of the agency who fails to comply with the conditions of bail or supervision, when continued liberty or noncompliance presents a risk of flight, a risk to public safety, or risk to the defendant;

6. Seek an order to show cause why the defendant should not be required to appear before the court in those cases requiring a subsequent hearing before the court;

7. Provide defendant-based information to assist any law-enforcement officer with the return to custody of defendants placed on supervision for which a capias has been sought; and

8. Keep such records and make such reports as required by the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services.

There are currently 35 pretrial services agencies serving 115 of Virginia’s 133 cities and counties. The Virginia pretrial services agencies operate under the authority of the Pretrial Services Act and are funded, in whole or part, by grant funds administered by the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services. Of the 35 pretrial services agencies, all but Arlington County are operationally situated within local community-based probation agencies. The primary role of local community-based probation agencies in Virginia is to monitor court ordered conditions of probation supervision and provide supervision services to probationers that would have been sent to jail.(*5) Agencies that provide both pretrial services and local community-based probation services have discretion with respect to dedicating staff resources to both types of services. Officers in some agencies are cross-trained and have taken the oath of office for both pretrial services and local community-based probation.
(*1) 1989 Commission on Prison and Jail Overcrowding Report
(*2) Code of Virginia § 19.2-152.2 et seq.
(*3) Code of Virginia § 19.2-152.2
(*4) Id.
(*5) Code of Virginia §§ 9.1-173 et seq.