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Pretrial Release and Misconduct in Federal District Courts, 2008-2010

ADVANCE FOR RELEASE AT 10:00 A.M. EST Bureau of Justice Statistics
THURSDAY, NOVMEBER 15, 2012 Contact: Kara McCarthy (202) 307-1241
HTTP://WWW.BJS.GOV/ After hours: (202) 598-0556


WASHINGTON – From 2008 to 2010, federal district courts released more than a third (36 percent) of defendants prior to case disposition, according to a study released today by the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). Nearly two-thirds (66 percent) of released defendants were released at their initial appearance hearing, while the rest were released at subsequent events including detention or bond hearings.

The data analyzed for this study were provided to BJS by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts’ Office of Probation and Pretrial Services, which includes details on the decision to release or detain defendants in federal district courts and the defendant’s behavior while on pretrial release. The report combines data for fiscal years 2008 to 2010.

The likelihood of a defendant being released pretrial was related to the type of offense charged. Defendants charged with property offenses (71 percent) were most likely to be released pretrial, followed by those charged with public-order (65 percent), drug (38 percent), weapons (32 percent) and violent (30 percent) offenses. Immigration offenders (12 percent) were the least likely to be released prior to case disposition.

Pretrial release decisions were also influenced by a defendant’s criminal history. Half (51 percent) of federal defendants with no arrest history  received pretrial release, compared to around a quarter (27 percent) of defendants with five to 10 prior arrests and a fifth (21 percent) of those with 11 or more prior arrests. Federal defendants who had a prior felony conviction (23 percent) were less likely to be released pretrial than defendants who had only a misdemeanor conviction record (41 percent). 

Nearly three-quarters of federal defendants released pretrial did not pay a financial bond to secure their release. Most were released through unsecured bond (39 percent) or on their own recognizance (32 percent).  Of defendants who paid a financial bond in order to gain pretrial release, 12 percent posted a deposit bond, 8 percent used surety bonds (or bail bondsmen) and 7 percent used collateral bonds.
About 8 out of 10 federal defendants released prior to their case disposition had conditions attached to their release. Nearly all (99 percent) defendants released with pretrial conditions had travel restrictions, 72 percent were required to receive drug testing or substance abuse treatment, 62 percent had weapons restrictions, 49 percent had to remain employed or seek employment, and 32 percent received home detention or electronic monitoring. 

From 2008 to 2010, 19 percent of federal defendants released prior to case disposition committed some form of pretrial misconduct. Most pretrial misconduct involved technical violations (17 percent) of release conditions, such as failing a drug test or failure to maintain electronic reporting requirements. Relatively few released defendants were rearrested for new offenses (four percent) or missed court appearances (one percent). More than half (56 percent) of release defendants who committed pretrial misconduct had their release revoked.

The proportion of defendants in federal district courts who were released pretrial varied by gender, age, race, and Hispanic origin. For instance, females (65 percent) were more than twice as likely as males (31 percent) to be released pretrial, and defendants ages 18 to 39 were less likely to be released than those age 17 or younger or age 40 or older.

Around two-thirds of Asian/Pacific Islander (66 percent) and white non-Hispanic (65 percent) defendants were released pretrial, compared to about a half of American Indian/Alaska Native (54 percent), two-fifths of black non-Hispanic (43 percent), and about a fifth of Hispanic (20 percent) defendants.
The differences in release by race or ethnicity may be due to certain groups in the federal courts having more serious criminal histories. A higher percentage of blacks (61 percent) and American Indian/Alaska Natives (43 percent) had five or more prior arrests compared to whites (36 percent). Also, a higher percentage of black (46 percent) and American Indian/Alaska Native (33 percent) defendants had a prior violent felony conviction compared to white (27 percent) defendants.

The report, Pretrial Release and Misconduct in Federal District Courts, 2008-2010 (NCJ 239243), was written by BJS statistician Thomas H. Cohen. The reports, related documents and additional information about the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ statistical publications and programs can be found on the BJS website at http://www.bjs.gov/.

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The Office of Justice Programs (OJP), headed by Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary Lou Leary, provides federal leadership in developing the nation’s capacity to prevent and control crime, administer justice, and assist victims. OJP has six components: the Bureau of Justice Assistance; the Bureau of Justice Statistics; the National Institute of Justice; the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; the Office for Victims of Crime; and the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking. More information about OJP can be found at http://www.ojp.gov.



Date Published: November 15, 2012