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Pretrial Release of Felony Defendants, 1992: Executive Summary

NCJ Number
Date Published
November 1994
This study of felony defendant pretrial release found that about 1 in 12 defendants released by State courts absconded before their trials and were still missing a year later.

The study tracked a sample of 55,246 men and women charged with a felony during May 1992 in the 75 most populous counties of the United States. About 63 percent of all felony defendants were released, on bond or otherwise, before court disposition. Among those defendants already on pretrial release when arrested, 56 percent were released once again. The judicial decision to grant pretrial release was strongly related to offense seriousness and defendant background. Six percent of all felony defendants were held without bail, including 40 percent of murder defendants. Another 37 percent of murder defendants were held because they did not post bail. Defendants with a prior criminal record or with a history of failing to appear and those on probation or parole were substantially more likely than other defendants to be detained. Among release defendants, 27 percent had at least one prior felony conviction, including 9 percent who had a prior conviction for a violent felony. About one-third of those released were rearrested on a new charge, failed to appear in court as scheduled, or committed some other violation that resulted in pretrial release revocation. A bench warrant was issued for the arrest of one in four released defendants because they failed to appear in court as scheduled. About 14 percent of all released felony defendants were rearrested before trial. Case processing progressed more rapidly for detained defendants than for released defendants. 1 table

Date Published: November 1, 1994