Orange County Pretrial Release Services assists the courts by providing information to judicial officials that enable them to make informed decisions about pretrial release conditions. The pretrial release decision should balance the legal and constitutional rights of the accused awaiting trial with the need for community safety and the assurance that an individual will appear in court. Pretrial Release Services performs the following evidence-based practices and key functions:
- The Case Manager meets individually with each newly detained individual in the Orange County Detention Center prior to the First Appearance.
- The Case Manager compiles and verifies information on each detained individual for judicial officials to use when determining pretrial release conditions. Starting in late 2017 after a 90-day pilot, Pretrial Release Services has begun utilizing an evidence-based risk assessment tool: The Virginia Pretrial Risk Assessment Instrument – Revised (VPRAI-R). Each individual is assessed for the VPRAI-R risk factors and given a risk assessment score and level. The Case Manager will provide a recommendation to the Court about whether pretrial release supervision is appropriate and if so, what level of supervision is indicated by the matrix that factors risk level and charge type.
- The Case Manager supervises and monitors compliance with all conditions for individuals receiving Pretrial Release from custody while awaiting trial. Four levels of supervision (Monitoring, Levels I, II and III) are available to the Court, and court reminders and graduated amounts of contact with the Case Manager are required for each level.
- The Case Manager maintains data on all individuals under Pretrial Release supervision.
After assessing the Risk Factors, the Pretrial Case Manager gathers and verifies information about the person’s community ties, employment, education, medical, mental health and substance use disorder treatment needs. The Court may utilize this information to make a more informed decision about release conditions, but this information is also used to assist the Case Manager in supervision of the individual or to share with the Criminal Case Assessment Specialist (LCSW) if the individual remains in custody. Referrals to residential treatment and outpatient providers can also be made by the Case Manager or LCSW.
While maintaining the integrity of the judicial process, Pretrial Release Services seeks to minimize unnecessary detention by supervising individuals who are likely to appear for future court dates and do not pose a risk to the community as they await trial. This practice results in reduced rates of incarceration, less disparities based on an individual’s race or financial resources and reduced costs for the County. Most significantly, individuals who remain in the community pretrial are able to maintain employment, remain with family, access treatment, maintain stable housing, aid in their own defense, assert their innocence, and mitigate the severity of any active prison term that may be imposed at sentencing.
First Appearance Hearings
First Appearance hearings in Orange County are held for all individuals charged and detained on misdemeanor or felony offenses. The hearings occur Monday through Friday at 2 p.m. at the Orange County Courthouse in Hillsborough. The District Attorney’s Office and Public Defender’s Office are both represented at these hearings.
The Pretrial Release Case Manager assists the Clerk of Superior Court in weekly hearings with individuals seeking Strike Orders for failures to appear in court. These hearings are held every Thursday at 9 a.m. in Hillsborough. Individuals seeking a Strike Order must report to the Office of the Clerk of Court between 8:30 and 9 a.m. on Thursday. At these hearings, the Clerk and the Case Manager perform the following tasks:
- Review driving histories and criminal histories to inform individuals about unpaid fines and future court dates.
- Review the case and failure to appear history as well as any documented excuse for missing court.
- Reschedule new court dates for criminal and traffic cases, where appropriate.
- Work with counsel and the DA’s Office to seek resolution of the matter, where appropriate.
- Where detention is being considered, the Case Manager will complete a Pretrial Release intake and offer the Court a recommendation for supervision.
In an effort to increase courtroom efficiency and to better serve the citizens of Orange County, the Clerk of Superior Court and Pretrial Release Services administer this weekly strike order docket. Each week, individuals who failed to attend a previous court date, can have these cases re-calendared to a future date if there is not a history of failing to appear or if there is a verified excuse for missing court. The state-wide review of traffic citations and infractions allows individuals to become informed of unpaid fees/fines and decreases the likelihood of having their driving privileges suspended. Finally, reviewing state-wide criminal backgrounds allows Pretrial Release Services to alert individuals of approaching court dates, which increases likelihood of court appearances. Rescheduling these cases helps individuals avoid arrest or detention and can assist individuals in retaining or restoring their driving privileges.
The Pretrial Release Case Manager, in addition to the Criminal Case Assessment Specialist and CJRD Director, continuously monitor the daily Jail List to determine if any individuals remain in custody on low cash bonds for non-violent offenses. CJRD staff regularly consults with Detention Center administrators and court stakeholders about these individuals to determine if pretrial release conditions can be re-considered.