The majority of courts in Southwest Ohio utilize either a pretrial services division and/or some type of pretrial supervision program. In either instance, they are designed to assist courts in setting bonds and to ensure that defendants with a pending case (or stated differently, who have not yet been convicted or acquitted) follow certain terms of bond.
While the name of this department may not be consistent across all courts, the concept is similar. Pretrial service departments are often tasked with the initial information gathering of defendants when they are first taken into custody. This department asks defendants a number of questions, all of which concern a defendant’s background and not about the case. The age of the defendant, employment history, criminal background history, educational history, number of dependents and whether the defendant served in the military are all questions pretrial services typically ask a defendant. This information is then compiled into a report and provided to the attorneys and court to assist in a decision on the amount of the defendant’s bond.
Hamilton County Pretrial interviews every incarcerated defendant, regardless of whether it is a misdemeanor or felony charge. Warren County Pretrial interviews every defendant who is incarcerated and indicted on a felony. These are very useful tools both for the court and for the defense attorney to streamline bond arguments and hopefully obtain a low bond or own recognizance bond for our clients.
Pretrial supervision, which can be run by a pretrial services department or also a probation department, is much different. It is essentially like being on probation while the defendant’s case is pending. Defendants, as a term of their bond, are required to follow certain rules during the pendency of their cases. Often these rules are specifically targeted at the underlying offense. For example, no consumption of alcohol when the charge is alcohol related or random drug testing when the case is drug related. Pretrial supervision differs from court to court, but generally defendants must meet with their officer before and after their court dates, may be called in randomly for a drug test, or may be subjected to the counting of their medication to confirm it is being taken as prescribed.
In our experience, almost every felony defendant in Warren County Common Pleas is placed on pretrial supervision. Hamilton and Clermont Counties can also require pretrial supervision, but it is frequently called supervised or conditional OR (own recognizance) in those courts. Pretrial supervision is not limited to felony defendants. Hamilton and Clermont Counties utilize it for some misdemeanor defendants, as does Mason Municipal Court.
It is important for defendants to understand the terms of their bond and whether they are subject to pretrial supervision. If a defendant slips up they may face the revocation of their bond and be sent back to jail. Conversely, a defendant who does well while on pretrial supervision demonstrates to the court that they are a good candidate for probation as opposed to jail or prison.