Supreme Court issues order on pretrial release

December 23, 2014

The Indiana Supreme Court plans to implement an evidence-based pretrial release program in Indiana, according to an order signed by Chief Justice Loretta Rush Monday. In order to do so, a study committee will develop and implement at least one pilot project.

The order requests that the Supreme Court Committee to Study Evidence-Based Pretrial Release pilot project assess the feasibility, efficacy, economics and methodologies for consideration and/or use in such a system regarding pretrial release decisions. Those findings will be used to propose any Supreme Court rules or procedures to implement such a system.

The committee was created in December 2013 by then Chief-Justice Brent Dickson. The group consists of judges, legislators, prosecutors, public defenders and probation officers. Dickson formed the committee to ensure the judiciary retains its function of making decisions regarding pretrial release. The General Assembly has attempted several times to alter how judges handle pretrial release and bail.

The order says evidence-based pretrial risk assessment practices offer significant advantages in how decisions are made about the release of arrested people pending trial, especially those charged with lower-level crimes and infractions. At least six states, the District of Columbia and the entire federal system have adopted procedures under which the release of arrestees is guided by the use of empirically derived risk assessment tools.

The order also restates:
-    Dickson’s comments that pretrial release is exclusively a judicial function;
-    The system in Indiana should favor the immediate or prompt release of arrestees without monetary bail, with a few exceptions, such as being a flight risk or charged with murder or treason;
-    Where monetary bail is required, the system should allow the judge to accept a full or partial cash deposit or to accept a surety bond;
-    The system used by the courts should be guided by an evidence-based risk assessment program.



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