In July 2002, the Sheriff’s Office and Probation Department assumed the operation of the “Release on Own Recognizance Program” which was formerly a privately administered program under the direction of the San Mateo County Bar Association.
The Sheriff’s Office screens, interviews, and, when appropriate, cites new jail bookings. They are responsible for related statistical information gathering. The Release on Own Recognizance Program (O.R. Program) was re-named “Pretrial Services” and placed under the Probation Department.
The Sheriff’s Office and the Probation Department work collaboratively to ensure that the Court receives a complete, accurate, and timely release/non-release recommendation for each person who is arraigned on the in-custody Court calendar.
Pre-Trial Services performs the following services:
BACKGROUND INVESTIGATIONS/RELEASE RECOMMENDATIONS
Pretrial Services staff investigate, verify, and evaluate background information for criminally accused defendants. This includes verifying residence, employment, and family ties. This also includes evaluating criminal history, obtaining references, and researching pending cases and the client’s performance in prior cases. Probation/parole officer’s comments about how likely the defendant is to obey court-ordered conditions and keep court appearance dates are also included. Pre-Trial Services prepares written release and non-release recommendations which the Court considers in its decision to either release, adjust bail or keep defendants in-custody while awaiting trial. The Judge generally considers the release recommendation at the in-custody arraignment stage. Along with the release recommendation, and before arriving at a release decision, the Judge also evaluates flight risk and community safety. The staff also prepare a release recommendation for out-of-custody defendants, for example, those with outstanding arrest warrants, at the direction of the Court.
SUPERVISION OF PRE-TRIAL DEFENDANTS IN THE COMMUNITY
Pretrial Officers actively supervise Pretrial defendants granted conditional/supervised O.R. release. Defendants are required to remain in regular personal and telephone contact. The intensity of supervision varies and depends on specified court-order conditions and/or the nature of the charges; for example, those charged with crimes of violence are supervised more intensively. Those charged with substance abuse are usually ordered to abstain from and test for controlled substances. Pretrial Officers also refer, or direct, defendants to substance abuse or mental health treatment, or employment training. Pretrial Officers counsel defendants about Pre-Trial misconduct issues. Pretrial Officers also keep the court informed regarding compliance orders and recommend appropriate court action when necessary. Finally, Pretrial Officers evaluate the defendant’s Pretrial performance and report the information to Probation Court Services, as needed.
MONITORING OTHER COURT–ORDERED RELEASES
Pretrial staff monitor the cases of defendants released on Regular (unsupervised) O.R. release. These defendants are generally deemed low-risk. The staff sends timely future court appearance notices, makes reminder telephone calls, and tracks their court cases through the adjudication phase.
GOALS AND BENEFITS
Pretrial release allows defendants to maintain or seek employment, maintain family ties, and assist in the preparation of their defense while awaiting trial. The process gives the Judge an opportunity to objectively balance public safety against the constitutional rights of the defendant. It also allows the Judge an opportunity to evaluate a defendant’s pre-conviction supervision and sentencing options. Finally, Pretrial releases help lower the County’s cost of incarcerating those criminally accused defendants that can be safely released and monitored in the community.
If you have questions about a court case, contact the San Mateo County Courts.
If you want to know which Probation Officer is assigned to your case, call (650) 363-4244.