The Orange County Pretrial Services program works with people who have been detained and are awaiting a first appearance with a judge.
The Pretrial Services Director collects information from the accused, the courts, and others with the goal of making that first appearance with the court as meaningful as possible by communicating to the judge all the information needed to make a proper pretrial decision that balances the rights of the accused with the need for community safety.
Pretrial Services seeks to minimize unnecessary detention by supervising people who are likely to appear for future court dates and do not pose a serious risk to the community. This work 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.
Pretrial Services also administers a weekly Strike Order docket, which allows people who have failed to appear for past court dates an opportunity to explain their absence, reschedule those dates, and avoid being arrested and possibly jailed. People miss court for many reasons like illness, car trouble, simultaneous court dates or incarceration in another jurisdiction, or simply not being aware of a court date. The consequences of missing court can include the imposition of additional fines, fees, and possible incarceration. Strike Order review seeks to correct that imbalance.
The mission of Pretrial Services is to share information between the accused, the jail, the court, and the attorney in order to help communication across the system; to provide information to assist in informed pretrial release decision-making; to supervise individuals placed on pre-trial release; and to help individuals with resources including access to behavioral health services, social services, treatment, and/or connection to family members.
Pretrial Services meets with everyone detained in the Orange County Detention Center before their first appearance with the judge. First appearances occur every business day at 2:00 pm in Courtroom 3 at the Orange County Courthouse in Hillsborough.
The Case Manager speaks to the accused, the victim (if there is one), family members, attorneys, and other people to collect and verify information on each detained individual. This information is provided to judicial officials to use when setting pretrial release conditions. Pretrial Services will provide a recommendation to the Court about whether pretrial release supervision is appropriate and if so, what level of supervision is appropriate.
Upon release and while awaiting trial, Pretrial Services will supervise and monitor compliance with all Pretrial Release conditions. Four levels of supervision (Administrative, Levels I, II and III) are available to the Court, and court reminders and graduated amounts of contact with Pretrial Services are required for each level.
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 Clinical Coordinator (LCSW) if the individual remains in custody. Referrals to residential treatment and outpatient providers can also be made by the Case Manager or Clinical Coordinator.
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. in Courtroom 3 of the Orange County Courthouse in Hillsborough. The District Attorney’s Office and Public Defender’s Office are both represented at these hearings.
Pretrial Services 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.
In an effort to increase courtroom efficiency and to better serve the citizens of Orange County, the Clerk of Superior Court and Pretrial 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 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.
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.
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.