Pretrial Services is generally the first contact a defendant has with the probation office. Pretrial Services performs an important service to the Court and the community during this initial contact with the defendant. Pretrial Services conducts an initial interview with the defendant prior to his or her initial appearance before the U.S. Magistrate Judge. The interview is one aspect of the investigation, the purpose of which is to advise the Court what risks, if any, the defendant poses if he or she is released while the criminal case is pending. Pretrial Services is concerned about a defendant's ties to the community (i.e., length of time in the community, employment history, family support, etc.), criminal history, and information about mental health or substance abuse history.
In addition, Pretrial Services must determine whether or not any conditions or combination of conditions exist that will reasonably assure that the defendant will appear for future court proceedings and not endager any person or the community. When risks are identified, Pretrial Services must assess what conditions, if any, can be fashioned to migitigate the risks. The law requires that these conditions must be the least restrictive to ensure the defendant's future appearance and the safety of the community. Once this determination is made, the officer recommends to the Court that the defendant either be detained, be released on conditions with pretrial supervision, or be released on personal recognizance without any special conditions or supervision.
Pretrial Services is also responsible for monitoring the defendant in the community and ensuring that the defendant complies with the conditions of release set by the Court pending the outcome of their case.
A basic principal of our judicial system is that a defendant is deemed to be innocent until proven guilty and Pretrial Services must operate under this legal concept. Statistically, however, the vast majority of individuals charged in federal court have pled guilty or have been found guilty after trial.