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Pretrial Release in Durham, North Carolina - Report on a Study of Criminal Defendants Charged in North Carolina's 14th Judicial District From February Through May, 1985

NCJ Number
Date Published
February 1987
This study examined opportunities for and risks of pretrial release as well as court responses to pretrial-release violations in North Carolina's 14th judicial district from February through May 1985.

Of a random sample of 937 criminal defendants, only 8 percent did not receive pretrial release, and most were released in less than 24 hours. Forty-seven percent were released on secured bond, 33 percent on unsecured bond, 9 percent on a written promise to appear, and 2 percent in the custody of a person agreeing to supervise them. Pretrial release conditions virtually guaranteed release; whereas, only 87 percent of the defendants with secured bonds managed to secure their bonds and obtain release. Bonds were significantly higher for nonresidents and significantly lower for blacks and defendants under 21 years old. Nonresidents, blacks, and those charged with violent felonies were less likely to be released and spent longer periods in detention. Women were more likely to be released and spent less time in detention than men. Length of time on release was the primary determinant of nonappearance and pretrial-release offenses. Bond forfeitures were not strictly enforced. Guidelines for pretrial release should be more specific and objective so as to reduce disparity in release decisions. Case disposition time must be reduced to lower the risk of nonappearance and pretrial offending, and bond forfeiture should be enforced more strictly. State law should be changed to permit release based on a deposit of a fraction of the secured bond, with the court having the option to require the full bond on demand. This would increase the incentive for trial appearance. There should be some prosecution for willful failure to appear, so as to provide added deterrence. Other recommendations are offered. 18 tables, 3 figures, and 72 notes.

Date Published: February 1, 1987