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San Diego Pretrial Assessment Lawyers

Defending Clients in San Diego County Courts

For decades California courts have utilized the bond system to oversee the release of defendants from county jails in preparation of their trials. However, Senate Bill 10 may change this entire process and outlaw bail as a method of releasing a defendant from prison. In place of the bail bond system, the court will oversee the release through a pretrial assessment review where it will determine if it is safe for a defendant to leave a correctional facility on their own recognizance, or without posting bail.

This shift from the bail bond system to pretrial assessments will require defendants to prepare detailed cases for their release. Doing so alone can be extremely difficult, which is why it is imperative that you speak to a lawyer who can provide counsel and representation throughout your case.

At jD Law Criminal Defense Attorneys, our lead San Diego criminal defense attorney James N. Dicks has been providing legal representation to California residents for over three decades. In that time, he has developed a thorough understanding of the San Diego court system and is well-versed on advocating for his client’s best interests before, during, and after trials. Call us at (760) 630-2000 to secure sound legal representation.

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San Diego Courts and Pretrial Assessments

Pretrial assessments have been a major part of California courts, being utilized in 49 of 58 county courts, but it was always done so in conjunction with the bail bond system. If the 2020 referendum goes through and Senate Bill 10 is made law, then all county courts will be required to hold pretrial assessments for newly arrested individuals.

San Diego previously conducted these reviews with the aid of pretrial services assessments, which reviewed a defendant’s background to determine if they were a risk factor. Due to the lack of funding, these services were stopped in 2015 and San Diego primarily operated under the bail bond system. Under the process outlined in Senate Bill 10, pretrial assessment reviews will evaluate whether or not a defendant is at risk of hurting others or missing assigned court dates before and during their trial in San Diego County. In addition, pretrial assessment services will also return to the country courts in order to help evaluate defendants’ risk levels.

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Who Is and Who Is Not Eligible for a Pretrial Assessment?

While pretrial assessments can be required for any trial under the new law, the circumstances of your charges and criminal history may determine whether or not you are released.

In most misdemeanors, a defendant may be released within 12 hours of his or her arrest without the need for a hearing. However, there are 10 exclusions according to § 1320.10(e), which include defendants who:

  • Are registered with the California sex offender registry
  • Are charged with domestic violence, have violated a domestic violence protective order, or have been charged with stalking
  • Are being charged with their third DUI within ten years, a DUI that involves an injury, or a DUI with a BAC of .20 or above
  • Have violated a restraining order within the last five years
  • Received three or more failure to appear (FTA) warrants within the past 12 months
  • Are pending trial or sentencing on either a misdemeanor or felony charge
  • Are currently under post-conviction supervision, including probation
  • Threatened or intimidated a victim or witness
  • Received a pretrial release within the last five years and violated the conditions of said release
  • Were convicted of a serious or violent felony within the last five years

If you fulfill any of these categories, you may be detained until your arraignment. However, each court has the right to re-evaluate each defendant who fulfills one or more criteria listed above on a case by case basis. In addition, defendants charged with felony crimes may be eligible for a pretrial assessment reviewing so long as they have not been arrested for a serious or violent felony.

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Process for Pretrial Assessments

The general process for court proceedings from arrest to trial under House Bill 10 includes:

  1. Arrest
  2. Pretrial assessment service investigation
  3. The defendant is released or detained depending on the investigation
  4. Arraignment
  5. All defendants must be released after the arraignment unless the prosecution requests a Preventative Detention Hearing
  6. Preventative Detention Hearing or Release

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Pretrial Assessment Services and Reviews

For eligible defendants, the pretrial assessment service (PAS) must conduct a background investigation and provide that report to the defendant, their attorney, and the court within 24 hours of an arrest. The report must include the current charges, criminal history, and the defendant’s risk factor, which is rated as low, medium, or high.

  • Low: Released until trial with the possibility for some restrictions
  • Medium: Release after a pretrial assessment review until trial with the possibility for some restrictions
  • High: Detained until arraignment

The report may also include information from the victim as provided by the DA and recommendations for release programs or conditions of release.

If the PAS determines that a defendant is a low-risk to the public or to missing a trial date, a defendant may be released on their own recognizance without the need of a pretrial assessment hearing in a court. If you are released, you must abide by the following rules:

  • Attend every court hearing leading up to and including your trial;
  • Remain within California unless you have permission from the court to travel out of state;
  • Cannot request extradition if you miss a court hearing or are arrested while outside California; and
  • Abide by all court orders.

If the review categorizes a defendant as medium-risk, or the court requests a review of an ineligible defendant listed above who is low or medium-risk, then the court will conduct a pretrial assessment review. This review must be conducted within 24-hours of your arrest but can be postponed for an additional 12-hours if good cause is provided. The court will then determine if a defendant is granted release on their own recognizance or supervised released. A supervised release may include:

  • Anger management
  • Electronic monitor
  • Alcohol/drug screening
  • Supervised release
  • Rehabilitation program
  • Curfew

Any defendant categorized as high-risk will remain in custody until his or her arraignment.

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Preventative Detention Hearing

At this point, you may be free of your own recognizance, on supervised released, or detained until your arraignment. After your arraignment, the court must release you on your own recognizance or based on a supervised release. However, the prosecution does have the power to request a Preventative Detention Hearing if:

  • Your charge includes a crime that was committed with violence, intimidation, the use of a deadly weapon, or involved great bodily harm
  • Are pending trial or sentencing on a felony charge
  • Are currently under post-conviction supervision, including probation
  • Threatened or intimidated a victim or witness
  • Received a pretrial release within the last five years and violated the conditions of said release
  • There is enough evidence to demonstrate that you are a danger to the public or are unlikely to return to court

This hearing must be conducted within three days of the arraignment if you are currently in court custody or within five days if you were already released prior to the arraignment. The DA is required to provide you with a notice of the hearing, and you may have counsel with you to defend you.

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What Are the Advantages to Having a Defense Lawyer?

Standing before a judge and making a case for your release can be extremely harrowing and difficult in a preventative detention hearing, even if you have a general understanding of courtroom procedures. To ensure you receive the best possible defense and secure the judge’s approval in a California court, you will need the aid of a knowledgeable San Diego pretrial assessment attorney who has experience in the San Diego court system.

In order to hold you in custody until your trial, the prosecution must demonstrate that you are:

  • A threat to the public
  • Are likely to miss your court dates

To do that, they must establish probable based on witness statements, the nature of your crime, your criminal history, and the investigation conducted by the pretrial assessment service.

However, your attorney may utilize the same pieces of evidence on your behalf, in addition to:

  • The impact on your family
  • Your relationship with your family and community
  • A history of good behavior and timely attendance of court proceedings

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Contact a Skilled San Diego Defense Attorney After an Arrest

Securing the representation of an attorney as early as possible also gives us time to fully investigate your case. We begin reviewing the prosecution’s evidence and arguments, start collecting additional witness statements in your defense, and begin negotiations with the DA for a reduced sentence or dismissal. To ensure you have a fair shot at freedom, contact the San Diego criminal defense attorneys at jD Law Criminal Defense Attorneys at (760) 630-2000.

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James N. Dicks

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