Pretrial Release Programs are used to reduce jail costs and overcrowding by allowing qualified nonviolent offenders to be released prior to trial. On July 6, 2009, West Virginia Code §62-12-28 authorized the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia (WCSCA) to establish five pretrial release pilot programs. On June 12, 2014, West Virginia Code §62-11 F-1-5 established guidelines for any county in the state that wished to develop a Pretrial Release Program. The Access to Justice Division is the administrative contact for Pretrial Release Programs in the state, and as a contact point for any county wishing to start their own Pretrial Release Program.
Program Requirements for Counties
Each Pretrial Release program is to be made up of a Community Pretrial Committee. The committee is charged with developing criteria for pretrial release based on a risk assessment protocol by following the Supreme Court of Appeals Issued Guidance Document. A Pre-Trial Release Committee is to be composed of the following: • Prosecutor • County commissioner • Sheriff • Executive director of a community corrections program • Chief probation officer and a member of the criminal defense bar • Or any of those persons’ designee Each Community Pretrial Committee collects and presents the necessary information, along with a risk assessment, and makes release recommendations to the court. The Pretrial Release Program was developed to enable individuals to be released on bail with little or no surety being posted. The courts use the pretrial release program to provide information to help in making a decision as to whether or not a person should be released, and the conditions of supervision if the individual is released. There are four levels of supervision, from telephone contact to daily in-person contact with a pretrial release officer, if the court releases an offender on pretrial supervision. Program participants could also be placed on electronic monitoring or house arrest. It is the judge or magistrate who makes the final decision as to the level and type of supervision for individuals who are released as part of the Pretrial Release Program. Committees must seek funding from either the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia (WVSCA) or Community Corrections Subcommittee of the Governor’s Committee on Crime, Delinquency and Correction.
Program Requirements for Participants
For a prospective defendant to be eligible for participation, the alleged crime must be either a misdemeanor or a non-violent felony. Prospective participants must be unable to post a bond and also must meet other criteria as developed by the Community Pretrial Committee. It is not mandatory for counties to develop a pretrial release program and even once a program is created, judges do not have to utilize the program nor is it mandatory for offenders to participate.
For more information contact Access to Justice Director Kara Mann, 304-558-0145.